Ground to Dust: Systems of Extraction and the Search for Spatial Justice

9 December 2021 – 29 April 2022

This exhibition at Beirut Art Center is Public Works Studio’s first institutional presentation. Rather than approach the format of the exhibition with any kind of finality, PW has created a site as unstable as the environments it investigates. 
The exhibition included a live component in the form of a Public Works Studio outpost: a library of print publications and online projects produced over the span of a decade and an open forum where a series of meetings, symposiums and participatory interventions were held throughout the exhibition.

Since its formation in 2012, Public Works Studio has been observing how the systematic commodification of land has deprived people of basic rights; namely the right to produce, belong to, appropriate and change lived space, as well as the right to shape individual and collective memories of it. This work of PW fits into a broader zeitgeist of independent monitoring groups and watchdogs in Lebanon, whose work takes a grassroots approach to knowledge production and dissemination by using a wide array of often participatory research, analysis and visualisation tools. 

Public Works had to find the visual language to grapple with the sheer breadth of the ecological and social challenges in Lebanon, as well as contend with the sprawling yet invisible nature of the interconnected webs of neoliberalism. Therefore, we were able to produce a rich visual language spanning written articles, documentary film formats, infographic, cartographic and archival materials, collaborations with artists, among others. 

For this exhibition, Beirut Art Center has proposed a spatial and narrative through line as one way to select and sequence material from a much more expansive and ongoing body of work. We have conceived of the element of dust as the mute narrator of the exhibition, taking viewers across multiple struggles, through varying scales of landscape and urban fabric: from the vast crater of a quarry, to the dense concrete facades of Beirut, and into the smallest room in any given apartment.

Read the full Article in Arabic here.


Christina Abou Rouphaël


Christina is an architect and urban researcher who graduated with a Master’s degree in Architecture (2015) and Urban Planning (2017) from the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts of the Lebanese University. She is currently working on various research projects related to urban issues, public property and the right to the city.


Yara Abdelkhalek

Land Policy Observatory Coordinator and Coordinator of Advocacy and Community Work

Yara is an architect and urban researcher who graduated with a MA in Architecture from the Lebanese University in 2017, and a MA in Urban Planning in 2023. She is interested in urban activism and the way in which local organizing shapes the city. Her work focuses on urbanism in relation to law and the state, using a lens on the right to the city violation, as well as networking to raise advocacy on urban-related issues.


Rayan Alaeddine


Rayan is a civil engineer holding a Master’s degree in public works and road planning from the Lebanese University (2019), and a dual Master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of Lille-France and the Lebanese University (2021). Using a variety of research and fieldwork tools, she is interested in discovering the dynamics of the urban environment, while adapting it to the fair and just use of people and all living creatures. Her work also includes monitoring and observing the changes of various urban elements and factors.


Nadine Bekdache

Co-director and Head of Communication and Design Unit

Nadine is a practicing designer and urbanist, and co-founder of Public Works Studio. She researches socio-spatial phenomena through multidisciplinary methods; including mapping, imagery and film as both processes of investigation and representation. As part of her research on urban displacement, she authored “Evicting Sovereignty: Lebanon’s Housing Tenants from Citizens to Obstacles”, and co-directed “Beyhum Street: Mapping Place Narratives”. Nadine is also a graphic design instructor at the Lebanese University.


Jana Haidar

Housing Monitor Coordinator and Casework Manager

Jana is an architect and urban researcher. She completed her MA in Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts of the Lebanese University and has been working on projects covering the topics of national urban planning practices, housing policies and displacement, urban transformation, and history. She is also the creator of Beirut Architecture Tours that explores the urban planning history of Beirut.


Lama El Hajjar

Office and Finance Manager

Lama is an Economics graduate from Saint Joseph University, with over nine years experience in the banking sector. She switched careers with the aim of engaging in the social and economic grievances partially caused by that sector itself, something that would also help her get am imcreased job satisfaction. Lama currently oversees all areas of finance and administration at Public Works. She also handles the Human Resources procedures.


Imad Kaafarani


Imad is an illustrator with a Bachelor in Graphic Design and Visual Communication from the Lebanese University. He thrives on making art in a variety of different forms including illustration, typography, animation, video and music.


Jana Mezher

Communication Unit Coordinator and Designer

Jana holds an MA in art direction from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts – (ALBA). She enjoys focusing her energy on exploring the city in its diverse and sometimes irreconcilable layers and excavating the forgotten stories within. Talk to her for hours about Anthropology, Politics, or History and she will not get bored.


Jana Nakhal

Magazine Editor-In-Chief (Consultant)

Jana is an urban planner and researcher. She published in several Lebanese and regional newspapers and magazines on urban and feminist issues.
Her research focuses on housing, public spaces, heritage and culture from an intersectional feminist perspective. She is specifically interested in the concepts of ecofeminism, reproductive work and the domestic space and organizes trainings on intersectional feminism, agroecology and ecofeminism. Jana is also on the editorial board of Watch, FIAN’s journal. She is a PhD student at Ljubljana University, and wishes to become a witch one day.


Maya Saba Ayon

Legal Researcher and Casework Manager

Maya is a law graduate from the Filière Francophone de Droit. She is a legal researcher with a focus on Housing laws, the local housing legal framework and its compliance with international human rights standards. A Casework Manager, Maya is the link between the Housing Monitor and The Right to Housing Legal Task Force, where she is tasked with legal referrals, following up on legal interventions and documenting their results.


Ramy Sabek


Ramy is a practicing Architect, holding a Bachelor in Architecture from BAU. His work focuses on people-centered urban environments, urban mobility, data visualization, computational design, and advanced construction methods. He’s interested in community engagement in the design process, especially the stories each person/object tells, and how these shape the lived environment. He is currently a fieldworker at the Housing Monitor project with Public Works. 


Abir Saksouk

Co-Director and Head of Research Department

Abir graduated as an architect in 2005, and later did her masters in Urban Development Planning. She is the co-founder of Public Works Studio. Her primary focus includes urbanism and law, property and shared space, and the right to the city of marginalized communities. She is active in exploring how local organizing could be employed in actively shaping the future of cities. Abir is also a member of the Legal Agenda and a co-founder of Dictaphone Group. 


Tala Alaeddine

Research Unit Coordinator and Researcher

Tala graduated with a Master’s degree in Architecture from the Lebanese University, Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts Branch II (2017), and received Academic excellence certificates and Scholarships from The Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development and the Lebanese American University. Her work focuses on land and housing issues in Lebanon, and includes studying and analyzing Lebanese regional masterplans, monitoring planning institutions practices, and advocating for participatory approaches in planning and reconstruction.

Construction Housing Land Management and Planning Natural Resources Public Property Lebanon