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Old November 23rd, 2011, 09:28 AM   #1
Rabih
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StudioInvisible's "Beirut Wonder Forest" Project

Beirut’s Rooftop Revolution (INTERVIEW)
Will Todman | November 23rd, 2011


We interview urban designer Wassim Melki who envisions a sustainable future for Beirut’s skyline.

Beirut is almost completely bereft of public green spaces. Satellite images show expanses of grey apartment and office blocks and a depressing lack of trees or any other kind of greenery. But architect and urban designer Wassim Melki has a plan to radically change all of this. Whilst finding space to create public parks, or even planting trees alongside roads is practically impossible, he suggests that the solution lies on rooftops.

“The idea of having a rooftop garden is not something new,” he told Green Prophet, “[but] the approach we took is a little bit different.”

Conjuring images of the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Melki’s company StudioInvisible propose to apply their project on an enormous scale. They plan to make everyone, “by force, if necessary”, plant a couple of trees on their rooftops, in a way that is “accessible, cheap and easily maintained.”

How green roofs could work in Beirut

Whilst most conventional rooftop gardens encounter many difficulties, such as issues of drainage and insulation, and the danger of rooftop trees being toppled in high winds, planting them in pots seems to be the most effective solution.

This method, combined with the use of steel wires for stability, would be especially appropriate for Beirut as there are numerous trees that could grow in pots in its climate such as the olive tree, the Schinum Molle, Morus Alba, etc. The list goes on.

Aside from the aesthetic benefits, and the improvements to the quality of living the residents of Beirut would enjoy were this initiative to be implemented, oxygen levels would be better, and a small but valuable crop could even be harvested depending on the types of trees planted.





StudioInvisible plans to implement this project by way of a “municipal decree”, mandating all residents to grow a few trees on their roofs, or through some other form of authority. This is necessary, Melki explains, lest the project be doomed to failure, something he laments is “very common” in Lebanon.

The studio suggests offering “tax reductions” or other benefits to those buildings that have well-maintained rooftop gardens. It urges politicians to have the foresight to see the possible political advantages they could glean from implementing this initiative, being able to say that they literally “turned Beirut green”.

The initiative has been circulated on the internet at a rate that StudioInvisible “never expected”, Wassim Melki said, already clocking up over 8000 views between their own website and archileb.com.

But despite this enormously encouraging support, the project faces a number of significant challenges as it now seeks to gain the interest of individuals and groups from different fields, financial support and, at least, “moral support” from the municipality of Beirut and the Ministry of Environment.

The simplicity, feasibility and potential of the initiative make its attractiveness undeniable. As StudioInvisible boldly suggest, if this plan were to work, “Beirut could become a rooftop wonder forest, the whole city as a landmark.”

::Images property of Wassim Melki from StudioInvisible via archileb.com

http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/11/...ion-interview/
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Old January 4th, 2012, 05:17 PM   #2
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Plan to create Central Park on the roofs of Beirut
By Katie Scott. 04 January 12


The hanging gardens of Babylon were the inspiration for an architect's ambition to turn the city of Beirut into a "wonder forest".

Melki of StudioInvisible explained to Wired.co.uk that while the concept of rooftop gardens is far from new; he is proposing creating them "on a very large scale" throughout the city and its suburbs. And he is suggesting a simplified gardening approach to encourage the rooftop garden proliferation.

"Most conventional rooftop gardens are very complex," he explained. "They require a specific type of insulation and drainage, and a study should be conducted on the roof slab and how much weight it could support. Since many of the existing buildings are more than 50 years old, we are suggesting putting the trees in relatively large pots."

Melki adds that there is little if not no space in the city for creating new public green spaces, and "it's almost impossible to plant on the sidewalks or at the side of the roads". The solution is to take to the rooftops, argues the architect, and use the roofs of the 18,500 buildings in the city that are currently vacant. Says Melki: "If only one tree is planted on each, that's 18,500 more trees: which is the equivalent of Central Park in New York."

The StudioInvisible team is currently working on a plan, which will be presented to the Municipal powers-that-be as well as the Ministry of the Environment at the end of this month.

In the meantime, the team are posting updates about the project on their Facebook page in a bid to get the Beirut population to go potty about plant pots; and turn their city green.

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/...-wonder-forest
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Old January 4th, 2012, 08:02 PM   #3
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As supportive as I am about a green Lebanon, this is not the solution. Those renderings make Beirut look like an abandoned ancient city and simply ruin the skyline. I think this could be implemented in some of the less-appealing suburbs, but not in the BCD, Ras Beirut, or Achrafiyeh. I wouldnt mind a few roof top gardens on some of the older buildings, but the city is already a concrete jungle and we dont need a real jungle on top of it.
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Old January 5th, 2012, 05:53 PM   #4
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Interesting theory, but I would take the "real jungle" over the current one any day.

First, the renderings are exaggerated and poorly made to represent the best (worst?) case scenario, and judging this program by those specific renderings won't do it justice IMHO.

We didn't invent this solution. It's been widely applied in Chicago, which is proudly the "home to over 200 green roofs, covering 2.5 million square feet, more than any other U.S. city." (read more in the attached inhabitat.com link)

It's not the "aesthetic" value that I'm only concerned about here, but rather its practical value. The introduction of greenery in Beirut will purify the air, as well as balance the Eco-System, among other natural benefits.

Lastly, I believe anything would be better than the typical concrete roof with the black isolation material, so there's little to no chance at all that we will "ruin" anything.
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Old January 5th, 2012, 06:39 PM   #5
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building such a forest on top of beirut rooftops makes it worse! You cannot cover your mistakes! you should heal it!

Imagine the view from above! it's so ugly, do not forget number of mosquitos will definitely increase and all types of insects as well! This plan is all wrong though i like the idea
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Old January 6th, 2012, 02:15 PM   #6
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I agree with Zippo, the practical use is more important than aesthetics. Urbanization is already at its worst possible level, so as Zippo said " there's little to no chance at all that we will "ruin" anything".
On the other hand, applying this to the BCD will not be as beneficial since that area is already-relatively- green.
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Old January 6th, 2012, 04:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ramynasser View Post
building such a forest on top of beirut rooftops makes it worse! You cannot cover your mistakes! you should heal it!

Imagine the view from above! it's so ugly, do not forget number of mosquitos will definitely increase and all types of insects as well! This plan is all wrong though i like the idea

Exactly my thoughts and very good point about the increased insect problems. The skyline view is what I am most concerned about. having all sorts of over-grown trees sticking out from buildings will indeed ruin the view.

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Originally Posted by -Zippo- View Post
Interesting theory, but I would take the "real jungle" over the current one any day.

First, the renderings are exaggerated and poorly made to represent the best (worst?) case scenario, and judging this program by those specific renderings won't do it justice IMHO.

We didn't invent this solution. It's been widely applied in Chicago, which is proudly the "home to over 200 green roofs, covering 2.5 million square feet, more than any other U.S. city." (read more in the attached inhabitat.com link)

It's not the "aesthetic" value that I'm only concerned about here, but rather its practical value. The introduction of greenery in Beirut will purify the air, as well as balance the Eco-System, among other natural benefits.

Lastly, I believe anything would be better than the typical concrete roof with the black isolation material, so there's little to no chance at all that we will "ruin" anything.
Zippo, I am completely supportive of air purification and I think this could work if applied in moderation (not on a massive scale as proposed) and done tastefully (like in Chicago). However, this is Beirut and I can just picture how this will evolve into a chaotic overgrown mess. There is no guarentee that the trees will be properly maintained. Let us fix the current concrete jungle by creating more public spaces and parks and not just hiding the mess under a green mess.
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Old January 6th, 2012, 08:29 PM   #8
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Interesting proposal, but I think it kindof misses the point. As some people already pointed out, I think Beirut has need of a real urban policy, that regulates construction, creates public space and green spaces.
Creating green spaces on top of private buildings will hardly benefit anyone.

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Originally Posted by -Zippo- View Post
It's not the "aesthetic" value that I'm only concerned about here, but rather its practical value. The introduction of greenery in Beirut will purify the air, as well as balance the Eco-System, among other natural benefits.
The ecological impact of this project however will hardly be felt. Cities currently need a humongous amount of green to actually purify the air pollution caused by cities. A city like Beirut, which depends on 100% fossil-fuel driven individual transportation it is very unlikely that any kind of green space will have a true ecologic impact. New York calculated already back in the 60s that city parks, even as big as Central Park have no ecological impact whatsoever.

Again, I see this more as a cover up for the real problem of congestion, pollution and the chronic lack of transportation alternatives.

I would like to see Beirut develop a sustainable urban development plan, instead of putting money in facelifts to cover up its painful mismanagement and real problems.
There is a big number of projects that propose real solutions to Beirut's problems, including pollution and public space. But as long as people keep putting money in this kind of green washing, claiming to solve the city's problems with spectacle and entertainment, the real problems will never truly be taken seriously, and the real solutions will never be realised.

It's a pity; Beirut's Disneyworld-politics.
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Old January 7th, 2012, 06:05 PM   #9
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Guys, I totally understand what you're saying, and I completely respect your opinions. In fact, it's those opposing perspectives that turn any "new idea" into a "well-thought" one, because they shed light on the negative aspects that could have been ignored in the initial studies.

However, and as supportive as I can be to the "real" solution that you're proposing, I fail to understand how this one (even though not a "fundamental" solution) can interfere with the other solutions you're stating?

I believe that it's "better to light a candle than curse the darkness", and putting a tree on the roof is better than sitting there doing nothing but cursing the current situation and hoping for "the" fundamental solution.

Currently, making room for public gardens means destroying old buildings without building new ones, and we all know that this is not plausible, given the price of the sq. meter and the greed of the developers, let alone making enough room for public green spaces for all of Beirut...

I don't find anywhere that "StudioInvisible" or "Wassim Melki" say that this is the only solution. They are simply saying that this is a solution, which seems cheap and doable, and with fast benefits. All the proposed solutions are fully supported by me (and by "StudioInvisible" I presume), as much as I support this one.

The thing is that this solution can be done on an individual level, while the fundamental ones should be led by official actions, and we all know how "enthusiastic" our officials get when it comes to environmental activities! If we sit here hoping for a fundamental solution, we will be changing nothing, instead, we can go on with this one, and try to get the "real" one, as well.

Beiruti, you have a point concerning your fears of the chaotic mess, but I think a simple kind of competition (on a neighborhood level) will force every building's committee to do their best to present their "personal garden" in its best form, and when it comes to fashion, well you know, we're Lebanese after all!

This project has potential, and it was created with good intentions, so let's not start opposing it without providing any alternative but the "hope of a better urban planning" and some theories about "major problem fixing".

Oh and think positively; at least we'll have the Bernard-Khoury-building-tree style everywhere! LOL...And i'll be doomed if I were to oppose environmentalism for the fear of a mosquito!!! (Keyword: insecticide)

Thanks for keeping an open-mind...(:
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Old January 8th, 2012, 05:55 AM   #10
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That mosquito drawing is hilarious!

I know that this is more realistic to accomplish than the actual creation of public spaces, but there are a few plots of land and abandoned buildings that can be transformed if there was some support. The first thing that comes to mind is the Ramlet al-Bayda park that is withering away.

As I said before, I'm not totally opposed to this project, I just feel that it needs to be done tastefully to avoid the chaotic mess. I am also concerned about the overall visual impact this might have on the skyline if implemented on a massive scale. Those renderings are very drastic and I am hoping that they are exaggerated (as you suspect). You are right though that most Lebanese might take pride in presenting the nicest garden so there is potential.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 12:27 AM   #11
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I doubt they can plant all of those trees on existing buildings anyway. The load wasn't designed to withstand the baring weight of soil + tree. not to mention the seismic implications you are adding to the existing structures. With newer buildings I can see trees on the roof tops being part of the design, however the existing ones probably can accomadate sedams or grasses, rather than trees!
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Old January 9th, 2012, 10:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melkart View Post
I doubt they can plant all of those trees on existing buildings anyway. The load wasn't designed to withstand the baring weight of soil + tree. not to mention the seismic implications you are adding to the existing structures. With newer buildings I can see trees on the roof tops being part of the design, however the existing ones probably can accomadate sedams or grasses, rather than trees!
Don't worry about that, trees and plants are live loads! Building can withstand that. When you design a structure you always have a factor of safety which is very high compared to the loads your building might sustain. Plants weights are negligible it's hard to build a tree on top of a building since we're using plastic jars.

It's gonna be a really ugly view since as we all know, top of our buildings are a true disaster. For sure 3/4 of us will not take gd care of those buildings especially in poor places in beirut suburbs. We should take that into consideration.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 10:47 AM   #13
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I think the #1 thing that should be done to rehabilitate Beirut is to repaint all the older apartment buildings in traditional Mediterranean and Lebanese colors. This would give the city a massive face lift.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 04:18 PM   #14
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This was done in one neighborhood a few years back but you are right that it should be done on a massive scale.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 07:10 PM   #15
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@ ramynasser the trees are negligible, but in order for a tree to grow it needs room to grow. I have designed green roofs before, you can't just plop a tree on top of a building. the amount of soil needed is significant and will factor in the design load.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melkart View Post
@ ramynasser the trees are negligible, but in order for a tree to grow it needs room to grow. I have designed green roofs before, you can't just plop a tree on top of a building. the amount of soil needed is significant and will factor in the design load.
yes man, you are totally right, soil is heavy. However, i was considering planting small trees inside jars and not big ones who require a big amount of soil. Well, since you're expert in this business and for sure know way better than i do, they can limit the amount of trees. Plant more flowers maybe...

I dt like this plan at all. It's all wrong ..
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Old January 9th, 2012, 11:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melkart View Post
@ ramynasser the trees are negligible, but in order for a tree to grow it needs room to grow. I have designed green roofs before, you can't just plop a tree on top of a building. the amount of soil needed is significant and will factor in the design load.
The plan is to put an app. 3 meter high tree in a "1 cubic meter of soil" pot. The soil should weight between 1 and 1.5 tons (according to my calculations). However, the ready-bought pots contain "Tourbe" (I don't know the terminology in English, could be "Peat"), which is much less denser than normal soil (can reach up to 20% in density, or even more). The live load bearing of a (healthy) Lebanese concrete-buildings is around 250-350 kg/m2 (+~20% safety margin).

They are claiming that those trees (and their pots) will be positioned exactly on top of the columns, although I find that a cubic-meter pot, no matter what it contains, will be an overkill, specially for the old buildings.

--

I know that I may sound like a "blind" defender of that project, but honestly I'm not. I just refrain from posting my negative thoughts about it (and they are not few), because we already have enough opposition for it, and, I lean to support it much more than opposing it.

This project is still in its early stages, and until a well-thought study is presented, backed-up with a successful prototype, it will remain a "visionary" idea, which, even though "immature" for the moment, but still has my support.
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Last edited by -Zippo-; January 10th, 2012 at 07:00 AM.
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Old January 9th, 2012, 11:16 PM   #18
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"Al-Balad" newspaper - Wednesday 14/12/2011



I hope you can read Arabic, cause am not gonna translate an image (Google will not come to rescue here). The title reads: "Beirut Wonder Forest...120 thousand trees above the rooftops"
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Old January 9th, 2012, 11:25 PM   #19
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"A nice 3 meter Citrus tree in a pot, found in one of the local tree nurseries!" - Beirut Wonder Forest


Courtesy of "Beirut Wonder Forest" page on Facebook

"P.s.: Our pots will be bigger !" - Beirut Wonder Forest

--

"Mr. Georges Tehini Agreed to let us use this small but lovely building in Badaro as our first Case Study! We are currently seeking sponsors to provide us with the trees. More updates soon!" - Beirut Wonder Forest


Courtesy of "Beirut Wonder Forest" page on Facebook

Official page on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/Beirut.Wonder.Forest
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Old January 9th, 2012, 11:30 PM   #20
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"Conceptual Diagram_
All we have to do is get a tree in a pot and fix it properly to the roof slab. In case of water shortage, collect rain water in Winter, and A/C units drainage water in Summer, and we're almost set!"



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