Beirut needs parking
Beirut is in dire need of parking spaces, especially in the downtown
area where everyone rushes to find one of the limited spots in
Beirut Souks, BIEL, in front of the Municipality, and the other
parking lots in the vicinity.
Many of the surface parking lots are disappearing as buildings are
being constructed in their place. Once these private plots are
transformed into buildings (which in turn means more cars in the
area), where will people park?
A vision that needs to change
The master plan of Beirut Central District (BCD) envisaged many
underground parking lots below public squares. This strategy is
unlikely, given the wealth of major archeological treasures buried
beneath the ground which must be protected. For instance, the
underground parking project below Riyadh Al Solh square can’t be
built because of valuable archeological findings.
An underground possibility
The BCD master plan proposed the biggest underground parking in
Martyrs’ square. It covers an approximate area of 220 x 65 m2
excluding the vehicles’ accesses. It is supposed to accommodate
between 1,500 to 2,000 cars on different underground levels.
This ambitious parking project was launched and designed in the
1990s but sociopolitical and administrative issues brought it to a
standstill. Mr. Bilal Hamad, president of the Municipality of Beirut
(MOB), re-launched it in 2010 and the MOB is represented by the
Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDR) which is managing
the project. Khatib & Alami (K&A) is working on the design and is
also providing a BOT (Build, Operate and Transmit) and all the
construction tender documents.
The idea and the
This large underground parking will be ideal for individuals
visiting the area from time to time and for companies’ employees.
There will be a green car wash, a commercial area at the access
lobby complete with coffee shops, a newspaper area, service kiosks
and small shops.
It will even feature a pedestrian connection with the future Beirut
Site Museum planned in Al-Tall archeological area. Since the parking
is in a busy area, it must be quick and easy to access for vehicles
coming from different directions in addition to pedestrians walking
over from all over the square. It also has to remain easy to access
during exhibitions, festivals, protests and other events taking
place in Martyr’s Square. Another challenge is that the design
should complement the award-winning landscaping Renzo Piano designed
for the Square. In addition to all this, K&A has to come up with
innovative yet practical solutions for the obstacles presented by
the infrastructure and utilities considerations, the archeological
layers behind the surface and the technical constraints.
The project is located in the heart of Beirut center, a bustling
area that is central in the road network. This is why the design
must consider traffic management during the construction period and
not just later on.
More than just a plot
This complex project is not on one plot. It covers different
properties in the area (several plots inside the square and the
streets around them). The properties are owned by the MOB, the P.D
(Public domain) and the DGA (Direction Générale des Antiquités),
meaning there are many entities and individuals involved.
Infrastructure and utilities
The roads around the square, which are part of the project, have all
types of public networks for dry and wet utilities, even the main
storm water channels drained to the sea and a main sewer collector
drained towards Burj Hammoud. A major part of these infrastructure
networks is already installed in a way that allows maximum width and
space for the underground parking. The remaining parts of the
networks must also be carefully designed so the access and exit
ramps will cross few wet utilities (which is very delicate to deal
with since they run by gravity). To get around this challenge, it is
critical that their invert levels are changed and the networks are
rerouted according to the underground parking design.
Building the future while protecting the past
More than two-thirds of the underground area was archeologically
excavated in the 1990s but the remaining non-excavated areas must be
professionally done by an archeologist assigned by the directorate.
Based on what is unearthed, the design might be updated to protect
any major findings.
Landscaping meets new design
Renzo Piano’s office won the international competition for the
landscapes of the Martyrs’ Square and K&A is closely collaborating
with Piano’s team to ensure the design and program complement the
landscapes while taking into consideration all technical
requirements and constraints.