The Bartlett Development Planning Unit




Development Planning Unit

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
27th Sep 2021

Research summary

The research starts from the premise that urban infrastructures are profoundly transformed by processes of gray-spacing (Yiftachel) that generate increasingly hybrid systems. In these systems, city-dwellers co-produce infrastructures that stitch together existing (old and new) publicly instituted networks with a multitude of more or less ad-hoc connections that enable them to access/increase or improve access/reduce costs, etc. In this perspective, I accept the widely held view that the informal and formal shouldn’t be analyzed as a dichotomy but rather as interconnected hybrid networks.

I further seek to expand the existing modes of cartographic investigations in ways that can allow me to visualize the informal and rely on cartography and visual investigation as a method of research: How does one visualize/represent the informal -knowing that its systems often seek to be invisible?  How can tools be historically developed to control, acknowledge, and allow for this hybridity?

Lebanon is an exemplary case study of city-dwellers playing an active role in urban development practices. The research will map the alternative systems that city-dwellers rely on to cater for their needs as well as analyze the network of stakeholders involved (providers, technicians/mechanics, etc.)The research will also make visible the public service supply disparities between neighborhoods, as well as the negative impacts that these have on the society, economy and the environment. Finally, the research will present recommendations that recognize the necessity of these alternative networks but seek to mitigate their inequities, and provide a more inclusive, just, environmentally sustainable, and resilient service provision framework.  

Research Questions: 

What is the configuration that organizes existing formal and informal energy infrastructures in today's urban agglomerations?

What are the various modalities in which city-dwellers organize their access to direly needed energy once the basic promise of a universal public provider fails?

What type of hybrid infrastructure systems are set in place? Who are the actors (public/private/non-profit stakeholders) who organize them?

Can a new mode of cartography serve to render these interconnections visible/tangible in ways that can improve their organization and mitigate their social and environmental costs?


My graduate work has occupied me in various research efforts that have been focused on the global south dealing with issues of affordable housing, water, waste, transportation, and energy. I was part of a research initiative at Columbia University that investigates the cutting edge urban infrastructural approaches evolving around micro-scale solutions to housing, water, energy, and waste. I have actively been part of the preparatory process of Habitat III in Quito in exploring a set of concrete recommendations related to Resilient Urban Water Infrastructure to the New Urban Agenda. The aim of these research was to propose a set of concrete recommendations for design and planning of urban environments. These strategies are related to the challenges associated with global urban population expansion in the coming decades. 

For the past two years, I have been the coordinator of the critical mapping unit at the Beirut Urban Lab. At the lab, I’ve been working on the Beirut Built Environment Database project, a platform gathering geolocalised social, environmental, and economic information on building activity in the Greater Beirut Area. Working on the project and specifically on the environmental attributes, shed light on the importance of gathering such data to inform and guide governing actors in public policymaking, and advocacy about the city. It also proved to me how lacking the available data is about public services (water, waste, energy) and pushed me to raise questions about accessibility, governance, privatization, and inequity of the service provisions.