Beirut Featured on CNN: Beirutopia – A Garden City?

How the rooftops would look like

One of the things I dislike the most about Beirut is the drastic lack of green spaces and parks. In fact, we tend to see parks as a waste of space, vying to destroy them to build new high-rises in their place. Yes, I think the destruction of the Sursok gardens is a Beiruti disaster.

However, a new project being planned for Beirut has caught the attention of CNN and they decided to talk about it. Beirutopia: Could Lebanon’s capital become a garden city? 

Architect Wissam Melki has a plan for Beirut – and it’s to turn the roofs of the city’s dense buildings into gardens, as a way to help ameliorate the poor air quality, limit the inland heat affect and make the quality of life in the city better. The plan doesn’t involve complex drainage systems, simply small to medium-size trees in large pots, all over our roofs.

Beirut's current "green" situation

How Beirut would look like after the project

The overall aim is to have 60,000 trees planted around Beirut, which would create a canopy above the city to help it cool down in the scorching summer and to decrease the levels of CO2. And get this, the cost for the project is very little: about  $3.5 – 4 million. That’s way less than any of the new high-rises being built in Beirut and it would span the whole city.
Melki says, however, that even if the government funds the project, the residents of the city need to feel involved. In a country like Lebanon where “green” is so low on the list of priorities, are we, as Lebanese, willing to care for the trees on our rooftops?
One of the main problems I see facing this is the status of Beirut’s buildings. Most of them are old, with shabby structure. Could they support the extra weight of the trees?
Regardless, I, for one, support such a project. Beirut is in dire need of some green – the city is dying from pollution and it’s high time we do something about it. Watering a tree every few days wouldn’t put a dent in our lifestyle, now would it?
It also requires less involvment from us than fighting for the city’s heritage. Either way, let’s honor our capital and get behind this much-needed project. Even CNN thinks it’s interesting enough.
The gardens look great and would make Beirut an even more gorgeous city than it is today. “Just imagine: The world’s first rooftop garden city,” Melki said. I can imagine it. Can you?

6 thoughts on “Beirut Featured on CNN: Beirutopia – A Garden City?

  1. Beirut, as imagined by Melki, is the dream of many of us who live in this beautiful city that is sadly loosing much of its charm with the severe disappearance of greenary.I suggest planting Jasmins, roses and other scent plants that were typical of this coastal city. As a person living in Ras Beirut, I sadly witness the disppearance of small buildings surrounded by gardens to give way to high rise buildings deprived of any greenary. I miss the scents that used to dazzle me as I walked in the narrow streets and that are now replaced by “carbon”.
    Melki’s project is wonderful and we should all back it up. Like him, I can imagine it!
    We can try a public campaign to raise awarness about it and collect funds. If we want to help, we need to know whom to address.


  2. As much as good as it looks, it can not be really executed without heavy side effects. First of all when the trees grow would the roofs be able to handle the additionnal weight? And even if it can handle it for some time, the long period will turn the load into a fatigue and shorten the life of the roofs. Second, where are the roots gonna go? What if those roots destroy the roof structures while growing and getting harder and thicker. Third potential problem: insects! With all these plants and mud insects are likely to grow and crawl inside the buildings. Last thing i can think about in these 5 min since i have read this post is the humidity problems that might occur. I am sure there would be more and more problems that aren’t obvious yet but they will appear as soon as the project is being applied, if it will be executed. With all that said, if all the problems can be solved, I look forward to see such a project being applied but sometimes architects are too much into the design that they forget the reality behind their applications.


  3. We actually had a discussion about this project and image in one of the courses I took (Landscape Architecture), and basically while this s wonderful in theory, and we indeed push for greenery within the city and urban greening and green roofs, this image is quite unrealistic.
    First of all, the size of these trees would never be possible on rooftops, they are far too large to be supported by the structure or to actually be planted in any pot.
    the roots of such a tree need to extend at LEAST to a third of its height, which is almost more than one full floor and needless to say such a pot cannot be placed.
    other limitations also exist in this proposal, in which I am now intrigued. will be emailing my instructor to refresh my memory.



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