The “in-between” development and heritage: the impact of transportation infrastructure on Batroun’s Old Town

Tarek Teba*, Namitta Merchak, Rachid Chamoun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Batroun is a historic Mediterranean coastal city in North Lebanon. Today the city presents an exemplar case study regarding the long-term impact of haphazard urban expansion on tangible and intangible heritage. Owing to the development of transport infrastructure, Batroun has grown into four parallel spatial entities that accommodate different spatial, economic and sociocultural settings, with weak connections between each other and to the major natural element, the sea. Batroun’s old town is gradually disconnecting from the coastline, detaching from the inland developments, and being abandoned by its residents. In addition, large-scale businesses on the modern peripheries of the city are growing, while local and small-scale traditional socioeconomic practices are declining in the city’s old town. This disconnection triggers negative spatial, social and economic outcomes on the town and its identity.
This paper, therefore, explores the different issues that have contributed to this fragmentation and seeks to evaluate the impact of infrastructural development on the social, economic, and spatial aspects of the historic town of Batroun. In addition, it investigates the opportunities that arise from the city’s cultural heritage landscape and raises questions on how to capitalise on these opportunities in order to restore the lost socio-economic values and identity of the old town. For this purpose, field observations were conducted to investigate Batroun’s urban and spatial setting. By mapping findings, this research assesses the consequences of a developed transport infrastructure on everyday life and the historic built environment in Batroun. Interviews were held with stakeholders, experts and local communities in order to define problems and their impact on tangible and intangible heritage from top-down and bottom-up perspectives
The heritage of Batroun has been seen as a barrier to the city’s development and there are inconsistent approaches to engagement with heritage in the urban and economic revitalisation of the city and its communities. Regeneration of the old town of Batroun has largely focused on the preservation of tangible dimensions, ignoring the great potential of intangible heritage settings in the revival of the city’s old town and its socio-economic practices. Understanding the heritage capacities, contemporary social values, and debates surrounding Batroun’s heritage, can facilitate the way for local stakeholders and communities to inform the revitalisation process. This paper therefore argues that inclusive and collaborative approaches, as well as new tools of inclusion, are needed to improve heritage informed regeneration strategies and consequently better define the required physical and non-physical infrastructure for a resilient historic built environment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Public Space
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 24 May 2024

Keywords

  • Social values
  • Urban conservation
  • Socio-economic practices
  • Heritage revitalisation
  • Intangible heritage

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