Confinement at home during the COVID-19 lockdown has given us the opportunity to reflect upon streets and public spaces in Lebanese cities. It is a time to imagine but also to plan what we want our streets to be like. With the current traffic-free asphalted streets, it would be more pleasant if we had contact with greenery, with trees, and birds. Even if tamed within the geometry of streets, the presence of nature would improve our state of mind during enclosure, and sense of connection to open spaces. It is time to seriously consider changing our street profiles, especially within residential areas, and start prioritizing nature that changes seasonally and helps purify the air we breathe. It is also time to think about non-motorized mobility, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to navigate neighborhoods safely and freely, and engage with the surroundings.
With the arrival of returning Lebanese nationals at the airport, we are also reminded of the need for a shared transport system, which is meant to serve people at large, not least emergency workers. When we need to move out of our neighborhoods to go to school or work, why not have the possibility to use safe and reliable shared transport, reduce traffic, and participate in daily encounters with other fellow urbanites?
Overcoming the COVID-19 from an urban perspective means thinking of how we could establish sustainable and livable urban contexts. By improving the quality of our streets, allowing nature to be present in cities, and prioritizing people over vehicles, we open the windows to enjoy and be part of the urban experience even from the confines of our living rooms!
Dr. Christine Mady
Assistant Professor, Chairperson, Department of Architecture, Ramez G. Chagoury Faculty of Architecture, Arts & Design