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French Version

Solidere plans Martyrs' Square design contest (Daily Star)

As part of its quest to restore Beirut's city center's identity, Solidere is organizing an International Urban Design Ideas Competition for students and professionals called "The Martyrs' Square and the Grand Axis of Beirut."

Solidere created the event to identify what it calls the new and emerging roles of Martyrs' Square.

The design competition does not involve the square alone, but Beirut's harbor quayside and its associated development corridor that has opened up new views toward the port and the Mediterranean.

Solidere will award cash to winning designers, who will then be eligible to help collaborate on a final design.

According to Angus Gavin, Solidere's urban development manager, "Martyrs' Square is an important and a complex part of the city center."

Gavin told The Daily Star in an interview on Friday that this area began to lose its identity ever since the French mandate in the 1920's.

"This part of the city has witnessed many events, but with time it started to degrade gradually though it was a center of commerce in Lebanon and a gateway to the region and the Mediterranean," he said.

The main aim behind the competition therefore, is "to envision the new identity of Martyrs' Square within the context of a renewed capital," that is overcoming the destruction and divisions of war and regaining what Gavin called a pioneer role in the regional and global economies.

"What we mean by identity is not only the landscape or the architecture, but the activities," Gavin added.

He said that it was a matter of generating a social space for the public. "We have to have a balanced relationship between the quality of space and the competition for development and investment in the public domain."

"Many people come here just to walk around and interact and not just sit in fancy and expensive cafes or restaurants," said Gavin.

The competition is open for students and professionals, according to the rules of the International Union of Architects (UIA). Students must be enrolled in any recognized academic and institution in the world, where they should be specializing in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design or any other relevant field. Professionals should be licensed architects.

The competition is divided into two stages. In the first stage, professionals and students will be judged separately.

Solidere will award six cash prizes for the students' category in the first stage. In addition, between five to seven professionals' projects will be selected to move forward to the second stage.

The second stage will be more detailed. The selected professionals will develop their urban and landscape designs and will be paid a fee for the detailed work that follows.

Results of both stages will be announced on Martyrs' Day [May 6] next year, said Gavin. The deadline for submitting designs is the end of September.

The first three winners in the second stage will be awarded cash prizes. The first prize winner may be eligible for subsequent collaboration to develop a detailed sector for the project.

"People have shown much interest in the competition and they are eager to raise questions about it," Gavin said.

Beirut 21-09-2004
Hania Taan
The Daily Star

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