2020: New Ecological Territories, Lebanon

2020: New Ecological Territories, Lebanon

‘2020: New Ecological Territories’, a text by Charbel Samuel Aoun

For the past year in Lebanon social skins of belonging cracked four consecutive times. Revolution cracked authority; the financial crisis cracked the banking system and our remaining hopes of economical survival; the coronavirus crisis cracked our consumerist approaches and revealed the impossibility of being alone; last but not least, the Beirut explosion cracked the heart of a whole population, but also a way of belonging that we can no longer accept.

When fixing a truth, it becomes a reality. Facing continuous and replenished destructions, we could ask: To what extent are we ready to refuse the spatial impact, what is it that we didn’t see that traps our consciousness and actions behind these walls?

For the past year, I found myself among a few of my friends in the field of action. I am a Professor of Design, who unintentionally begun returning to a plot of land in my childhood village, located a region of Lebanon called Fanar. Located on a hill overlooking Beirut, it grew into a city of forty thousand inhabitants over time. In this 2500m2 plot, 70 varieties of fruits, sheep, bees, chicken, insects, vegetables, colours, form, scent, materials, sound and light live. We began sharing atmospheres that are free, composing actions within, seeking knowledge to reintegrate the lost and the desired. It was a challenge to free our belonging from a system in order to discover an older connection to soil.

Ideas generate new ideas, but action shapes both. Our current territory lies in the multi-sensory experience of dirt, in which language is continuously reinvented. A school of existence for those who choose, to be a part of the creation but more to be able to help in that chain and compose harmonious fields of action for different forms of life. It is becoming now a community of people. Intuition, action and sharing is generating a new relation to physical space, one that knows no definition, only a field for personal spaces to connect.

The sky in Fanar, captured by Charbel Samuel Aoun after the Beirut explosion.

Q&A with Ariana Kalliga (Space52) and Charbel Samuel Aoun

AK: Since the explosion, have more people left the city to look for alternative ways of living?

CSA: I started to distribute plots of this land for free 10 years ago, during which time I met sensitive people that today are reshaping their belonging… many of them are leaving Beirut and going back to their land where they are reconnecting to the natural space, and with whom we are sharing knowledge and know-how about sustainable ways of living, agro-forestation and sustainable architecture.Other people I know, are completely fleeing the country…

AK: What are your plans for the future of your plot of land?

CSA: I am considering to open this space for whomever seeks to interact through workshops and sharing events. It would be around traditional ways of dealing with nature and how this space offers free sources (atmospheric, scientific or materials) to become languages we communicate through. It is becoming an atypical institution with no fees nor diplomas. We seek to have a small form of organic architecture that would be used for workshops and a sharing space, that would be built with stones from the land itself.

AK: Do you consider the cultivation of land a form of ‘design’ ?

CSA: Land is the source for everything, it can be perceived as an ideal form design for a designer, an ultimate poetic space for a poet, a lived painting for a painter, a food source for a farmer…It is a space of existence where infinite languages of belonging exist together in a field of harmony. Death is part of it, as are man-made catastrophes.


Born in 1980, and trained as an architect, Charbel Samuel Aoun has worked as a conceptual designer in several architectural firms in Beirut. At the same time, he started creating a wild garden, combining hundreds of varieties of plants and trees. In his work he combines his education as an architect and his passion for nature, experimenting with different materials and elements. His works can be found in the collections of the Royal Family of Emirates, Raymond Audi, Jean Marc Decrop, Abraham Karabajakian, and Tate Modern.