TandemWorks' (TW) inaugural project, Hammoud Badawi, is a three-fold initiative in Beirut (Lebanon) involving focus groups, an art installation and a publication. Hammoud Badawi seeks to trigger debate, engaging with local residents to rethink their neighbourhood, thus creating empowerment and civic pride. For these reasons, TW invited artist Vartan Avakian to create a sound installation on either side of the river, acting as a metaphorical bridge that aims to revive the memory of the river and reconnect communities around with its once natural existence. By starting with a socially engaged art project, it hopes to potentially inform the final urban renewal and direct strategy from the ground up.
TW was invited to collaborate with tOD Integrated Architecture Lab, who initiated the project and developed partnerships with Lebanese Centre for Energy Conservation (LCEC) and UN-Habitat. Under the guidance of tOD’s founder and architect Adib Dada, the strategy will involve creating wastewater treatment systems around the river, biodiversity public parks and a pedestrian bridge alongside the existing Yerevan Bridge, connecting Bourj Hammoud to Achrafieh and Badawi. Perceived as underdeveloped and critical areas on the margins of Beirut, these neighbourhoods have a complex and rich history and social fabric that has been adversely impacted by the implementation of the river walls.
Voice: Focus Groups
Ongoing focus groups are organised around the neighbourhood’s relationship with the river and its urban context. The objectives of these meetings are: firstly to trigger a dialogue between the communities along the two sides of the river and understand their concerns, priorities and oral history and memory about the river in its natural form. Secondly, to provide a platform in which these issues are expressed in public with the aim of empowerment and building a moment in collective memory, ultimately informing tOD's strategy in order to develop a ground level responsible and relevant strategy.
Engage: Art Installation
A temporary sound installation by Avakian will be placed on either side of the river starting January 2016. The audio piece will channel the natural sound of the running water into the urban areas surrounding it whilst offering a communication channel between the 2 sides. By re-calibrating the way in which people view the river – as a natural, healthy water source, rather than a polluted urban waterway – Avakian hopes that residents will begin to reconsider not just the river, but their entire environment. “The sound installation is a simple gesture that aims to re-establish a relationship with the river and act as both a call to action – by being a metaphorical bridge between the two communities – and as a witness of a shared living experience,” explain TW founders Alia and Mayssa Fattouh. The installation will be on site for one year, with a map of its layout included in the ensuing publication.
A one-off multilingual publication was published and distributed with As-Safir newspaper (17,000 copies) across Lebanon on November 9, 2015 as well as for free in the neighbourhoods of Bourj Hammoud and Badawi. Contributors of various practices and disciplines, such as urban planners, architects, sociologists, researchers, artists and writers are taking part. Subjects of interest include the environment, immigration, gentrification, summary of the focus groups, historical events and, of course, public space and the role of rivers in urban contexts. Contributors include Marwan Rechmaoui, Nadia Christidi, Omar Fakhoury, Rayya Badran, Sarah Lily Yassine, Jessika Khazrik, Joanne Nucho, Vartan Avakian, theOtherDada and Public Works.
Our partner on this project is theOtherDada and we are grateful for the support of Mophradat, Tarek Miknas and anonymous patrons. We would like to thank the following people for their continued support and help in realising this project, in no particular order: Fahad Wahedi, Assaad Al-Assaad, Adib Dada - theOtherDada, Mophradat, Milena Sales, Georges Awde, Roy Deeb, Vrouyr Joubanian, Anna Wallace-Thompson, Nada Fattouh, Fatme Masri, Sari Kassis, Karim Attoui - Public Interest Design, Fouad Bechouati - 21db, DB Studios, Arpie Mangassarian - Badguer Center, Alfred Tarazi, Fadi Tofeili, Sarine Hagopian and Richard Douzjian.