The Bartlett School of Planning


Paul Moawad

Research subject

Deconstructing the Lebanese-Syrian borderscape through waiting and temporality: a comparative study on informal settlements in Lebanon along the borderline 

Primary supervisor: Dr. Lauren Andres
Secondary supervisor: Professor Mike Raco
Starting date: September 2019
Projected completion date: September 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?

Paul Moawad is an architect, an academician and a doctoral researcher with over 20 years of professional and academic experience. From 2000 to 2010, he practiced architecture in various firms in Connecticut and Washington D.C. He is an award-winning architect (IIDA, AIA awards) with extensive experience in mixed-use developments, corporate workplaces, educational facilities, libraries and public places. From 2004 to 2006, he taught urban development courses at Columbia University and design courses at the Corcoran Art & Design School and has been since 2010 teaching and coordinating architecture and urban design studios at Notre Dame university, Lebanon. He served as a guest critic to academic senior projects at local universities and has been invited to lecture in seminar courses at UCL. His research interests focus on contested public spaces, informal settlements, mobility, migration and refugees’ transience and temporariness.


MOAWAD, P. & ANDRES, L., 2021, The Impact of Covid-19 in Lebanon: Contextuality, Cultural Practices and Spatial Implications, 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 (commissioned)

MOAWAD, P. & 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, in press.

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

MOAWAD, P. (2015) Engaging the Community in the Design Process. Handassa, OEAT, Scientific Committee Volume XII, April 2015 MOAWAD, P. (2001) Seeking Freedom from Syrian Occupation. Yale Daily News, April 2001

Conference Presentations

6 December 2020: Designing Cities – Principles and practices of city planning in the past and present, AACCP2020 Conference, Finnish Institute in the Middle East, Beirut, Lebanon 


“The impact of Covid-19 encampment mechanisms on Syrian’s refugees’ mobilities and vulnerabilities”. (In progress with Dr. Lauren Andres)

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