Bold concepts for greening Beirut's walls and rooftops could turn the city's concrete jungle into something that looks more like the hanging gardens of Babylon -- though it might take a little strong-arming to get there.
The "most pragmatic solution" to the city's dire lack of green space -- at best 0.8 square meters per capita, far below the World Health Organization's recommended 12 square meters -- would be to pass "a municipal decree that requires each building to grow its [own] simple rooftop garden... Nothing fancy, just a couple of trees in a large fixed pot on each rooftop," according to StudioInvisible, a Beirut-based design consultancy profiled recently by the Middle East environmental news site Green Prophet.
Rooftop Gardens For Growing Food
"As incentives to the urban population, the municipality can offer tax reductions or benefits to the buildings that have a well-maintained rooftop garden, and the gardening/plant companies could offer discounts and sponsorship," StudioInvisible writes on its website, suggesting olive trees, pepper trees, white mulberry, pomegranate shrubs, and other plants that will grow well in a rooftop pot in the Beirut climate. Widespread rooftop gardens, it says, would help clean the air and cool the city while giving people green spaces to enjoy and even the chance to grow some of their own food.
StudioInvisible's envisioning of a green Beirut.
The city's walls offer another opportunity for green growth, according to Beirut-based architect Sandra Rishani, writing on her website, Beirut the Fantastic. Current building laws encourage developers to leave side walls of new structures completely windowless and blank, under the assumption that the person who develops the lot next door will build right up against their neighbors.
Turning Eyesores Into Attractive Urban Features
"Varying building heights and plot development periods in addition to the varying building sections allow large parts of the blank walls to exist for over three years at a time around the city," Rishani writes, suggesting that these walls be planted during the time they remain exposed, turning eyesores into attractive features of the city.
Though she proposes adding "planters with wires that invite the varying climbers to grow ... to all blank walls at varying intervals" and small rainwater collection systems on rooftops, Rishani also notes how greenery often takes over deserted buildings all on its own. Just imagine what it could do with a little helping hand.