The Bartlett School of Planning


Paul Moawad

Research subject

Deconstructing the Lebanese-Syrian Borderscape through Modalities of ‘Waiting’ and Spatio-Temporality: An Investigative Study on Informal Tented Settlements in Lebanon along the Borderline  

Primary supervisor: Dr. Lauren Andres
Secondary supervisor: Professor Mike Raco
Starting date: September 2019
PhD Awarded: April 2022

Fairly nascent in the field of urban studies and planning, this research fills a gap in deconstructing waiting and temporality in informal tented settlements (ITSs) along the Lebanese-Syrian borderscape.

Temporary spatial experiences lived by protracted refugees inhabiting ITSs that are considered transient and ambivalent are examined in this research. In unraveling the notion of time and waiting, spaces of borders and contested spaces in ITSs are investigated; perceived as liminal, ambiguous and marginalized territories, those spaces transformed into socio-spatial productions are continuously processed and constructed via refugees’ multi-scalar societal and relational practices.

Furthermore, the waiting experience along borders is neither static nor one-dimensional but rather a multidimensional one that encompasses social and cultural exchanges. Hence, transient populations, like refugees inhabiting ITSs, develop communal activities benefiting both host-communities and refugees.

Drawing on Lefebvre and Sojas’ spatial interrogations and re-appropriations, a de-bordering and re-bordering approach has thus been adopted to understand the transient nature of borders and their continuous daily reproduction in relationship to time and waiting, transforming ambivalence into productivity. 

The following research questions are being addressed:

  1. How a critical investigation of spatial practices and modalities via the Lefebvrian and Sojan lenses can assist in understanding borders mobilities and their transient nature?
  2. How a productive waiting embodiment can produce a home-like feeling, a sense of a place and foster social communal relationships away from fear and subordination?
  3. How relational and participatory activities can transform the limbo state and heterotopic nature of borderscapes into a social construct space?
  4. In what ways can a refugee-centered perspective enhance coping of refugees leading to participatory spatial practices?

Trained as an architect, Paul have worked for over twenty years in Higher Education as a lecturer in the US, UK and Lebanese Universities holding part-time and full-time faculty positions. Additionally, he has been invited to lecture and participate in seminar courses at Columbia University, Corcoran Art and Design School, Imperial College London and UCL. In the past 6 years and in parallel to his PhD studies and practice, Paul has been an active researcher involved in 4 interdisciplinary research grants as a research fellow and a co-project lead looking at the impact of COVID-19 on refugees living in informal tented settlements. More recently, he has been delivering guest lectures and seminars in Urban Planning History and Thought (BSc), Comparative Urban Projects (MSc) and Sustainability, Resilience and Climate Change (MSc) at UCL, Bartlett School of Planning (London). His academic expertise is situated within the field of urban studies and environmental planning, border studies and forced migration, informal settlements and spatial re-appropriations, power mechanisms and waiting modalities, hospitality typologies and social integration, with a focus on the Middle East region. In 2021 Paul won the IJURR Foundation Writing-up Grant Award, and was awarded the position of a research scholar at the Political Science Department at Yale University under the guidance of professor Frances Rosenbluth. Paul completed his PhD in 2022 and is currently in process to publish a monograph and a series of papers decoding ‘waiting’ modalities in marginal territories. 


MOAWAD P., ANDRES, L., Refugees in Abject Spaces, Protracted ‘Waiting’ and Spatialities of Abjection during the COVID-19 pandemic, Social and Cultural Geography, https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2022.2121980

-              MOAWAD, P.  Landlords-Shaweeshs Power-Nexus and repercussions on Syrian Refugees’ Coping Mechanisms, livelihood conditions and ‘waiting’ modalities, in CHATTY, D and FAKHOURY, T. Refugee Hosting in the Arab World: How States (re) Negotiate The International Refugee Regime (in press).

-              ANDRES, L., BRYSON, J., MEHANNA, H., and MOAWAD, P. (2022). Learning from COVID-19 and planning post-pandemic cities to reduce pathogen transmission pathways. Town Planning Review https://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/journals/id/43/volume/ahead-of-print/issue/0/article/67835

-              MOAWAD, P. and ANDRES, L., 2021, Repercussions and impact of Covid-19 pandemic encampment mechanisms on Lebanese informal tented settlements along the Lebanese-Syrian borderline, in BRYSON, J., ANDRES, L., ERSOY, A., REARDON, L. Living with Pandemics: Places, People, Policy and Rapid Mitigation and Adaptation to Covid-19, Edward Elgar, pp. 79-90

-              ANDRES, L., BRYSON, J., MOAWAD, P., 2021, Temporary urbanisms as policy alternatives to enhance health and well being in the post-pandemic city, Journal Current Environmental Health Reports, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40572-021-00314-8 

-              MOAWAD, P. 2020, Temporary forms of urbanism in contested urban spaces in Lebanon: the case of Dbayeh camp ANDRES, L and ZHANG, Y (ed.) Transforming Cities Through Temporary Urbanism. A Comparative Overview, Springer, pp. 73-88

-              MOAWAD, P. and ANDRES, L., 2020, Tackling COVID-19 in informal tented settlements (Lebanon): an assessment of preparedness and response plans and their impact on the health vulnerabilities of Syrian refugees, Journal of Migration and Health, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmh.2020.100011  

-              MOAWAD, P. and ANDRES, L., 2020, Decoding Syrian Refugees’ Covid-19 Vulnerability in Informal Tented Settlements: a Community/Refugee-Led Approach to Mitigate a Pandemic Outbreak, 2020, Town Planning Review, https://doi.org/10.3828/tpr.2020.55 

-              MOAWAD, P. (2015) Engaging the Community in the Design Process. OEAT, Scientific Committee Volume XII, April 2015

Conference Presentations

Empowerment repercussions and ‘waiting’ modalities through rhythmic activities amongst Syria female refugees living in ITSs along the Lebanese Syrian Borderscape , Woman and Urban Change Online Seminar Series, UCL, January 2023

Implementing Social Justice in Disaster Response: How a community-led initiative aided in Beirut reconstruction. Imperial College London; Centre for Environmental Policy. January 2021 and 2022.

Power Mechanisms and their Repercussions on Syrian Refugees Living in ITSs along the Lebanese-Syrian Borderscape, Refuge in the Arab East: How States (Re) navigate the International Refugee Regime Workshop, Sciences Po Paris, 11 November, 2021

Unwrapping the multi-level control, subordination mechanisms and their impact on refugees living in ITSs on the Lebanese-Syrian borderscape. The Bartlett School of Planning PhD Conference, 8 June 2021

Temporary Urbanism in Contested Urban Spaces: Urban Regeneration thru the nexus-thinking and active waiting, ACCP 2021 Cities in Evolution: Diachronic Transformations in Urban and Rural Settlements, Istanbul, Turkey. April 26th-May 2nd, 2021

Community-led reconstruction after the Beirut port explosion, Socially Just Planning: Implementing social justice in disaster response Seminar, UCL, 22 April 2021

Control and fear in Syrian Informal tented settlements in Lebanon during the pandemic crisis, The American Association of Geographers' annual meeting April 7-11 2021 (online)

Bricolage and improvisation in the process of everyday 'place-shaping': learning from informal settlements in South Africa and Lebanon, The American Association of Geographers' annual meeting April 7-11 2021 (online) (with Lauren Andres and Stuart Denoon Stevens)

Immobility of lockdown and ill-health places of exception: control and fear in Syrian Informal tented settlements in Lebanon during the pandemic crisis, The American Association of Geographers' annual meeting April 7-11 2021 (online) (with Lauren Andres)


2018-2022: Deconstructing the Lebanese-Syrian Borderscape through Modalities of ‘Waiting’ and Spatio-Temporality: An Investigative Study on Informal Tented Settlements in Lebanon along the Borderline (Doctoral research awarded in April 2022)

2020-2021: The impact of Covid-19 encampment mechanisms on Syrian refugees’ mobilities and vulnerabilities in Lebanon (with Prof. Andres)

June 2022-Present: PANEX-YOUTH  (Funded by the ESRC, FAPESP, NRF). Adaptations of young people in monetary-poor households for surviving and recovering from COVID-19 and associated lockdowns in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. https://panexyouth.com

January – August 2022: Making places: Bottom-up strategies in London, New York and Hong Kong (UCL-CUHK).

January 2021-February 2022: What is Governed in Cities (WHIG). In depth-comparative research on housing tends and programs in three European cities (ESRC). https://whatisgovernedincities.eu

Voluntary Work

BeBeirutArchitects: Founder of the BeBeirut Architects initiative launched to serve the affected victims in the aftermath of the Beirut blast that took place on August 4th, 2020. The team is composed of over 40 architects offering pro bono architectural services and project management to damaged residences of the elderly and most vulnerable community members. https://www.instagram.com/bebeirutarchitects/


Associate AIA, ULI, RICS, OEAT