Over the last few decades, the Lebanese capital Beirut has been growing a dark layer of smog that is only getting thicker by the day. Highly congested roads and endless concrete buildings render the city in one gradient color that seems to hover further and further into the outskirts of its suburbs: grey.
Green public spaces were never at the top of the agenda in Lebanese policy, and highways and large cars have always been prioritized over public transportation, cyclers and pedestrians, resulting in poor air quality, sound pollution and scarce ground floor areas for future potential planting. On one hand, the hilly geographical condition of Beirut is a constraint in itself, however on the other, the social and political constraints can be even more biding, with the legal authorities unwilling to implement radical regulations resulting in a general unawareness of the public concerning open landscaped spaces.


Beirut Wonder Forest

Beirut Wonder Forest is a motivated proposal with a simple and low-cost implementation strategy that seeks to transform the grey of the Lebanese capital into a vivid green by planting trees on all building rooftops. Conceptualized by architect Wassim Melki from Studio Invisible (, a Beirut-based design consultancy firm, the vision depicts an injection of greenery in the stark urban cityscape in hope of breaking down air and noise pollution, and providing each building’s residence with their agricultural garden.
The project quotes Sir Mark Sykes in his last visit to Beirut: “In a city of concrete, a city stranger to green spaces, a city where sidewalks like roads have been carjacked, a city where a dark smog looms over daily, you’d figure, there’s more to rooftops than rooftop bars.”
The World Health Organization recommends 12 square meters of green per capita. At best, Beirut has 0.8 square meters. Turning all rooftops into green areas seems only possible if a municipal decree is passed, requiring each building to grow its ‘simple’ rooftop garden. ”Nothing fancy,” says Studio Invisible, “just a couple of trees in a large fixed pot on each rooftop."
A prototype is in process of being set-up, with the intention of attracting visitors to witness the world’s first sky forest. "As incentives to the urban population, the municipality can offer tax reductions or benefits to the buildings that have a well-maintained rooftop garden, and the gardening/plant companies could offer discounts and sponsorship," Studio Invisible states on their website, with olive white mulberry trees, pomegranate shrubs, and other plants serving as suitable options for Beirut’s climate while even giving the building’s residents the chance to even consume some of these foods.


Rooftop Forestation

The idea of rooftop forestation is not new, however the scale of the proposed plantation of Beirut and its surrounding neighborhoods is unseen before. The trees are expected to provide shading and cooling, and to significantly reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and generate more oxygen. “Beirut has around 18,500 buildings; that’s 18,500 trees. It’s the equivalent of Central Park in New York City. Of course, our objective is to plant more than one tree on each rooftop, not only in the center of Beirut, but also sprawling out into the suburbs of Bourj Hammoud, Badaro, Haret Hreik and others,” says Melki.
There are two components to the project’s feasibility. The first is aimed at configuring the basics for the installations on all 18,500 buildings in Beirut by setting-up a prototype. This will then be presented to the Beirut municipality as well as the environment and agriculture ministries.
The second part is aimed at lobbying for passing a decree that is ready to implement and reinforce this law across the city. “The most conventional rooftop gardens are very complex since they require a specific type of insulation and drainage. But the prototype will serve to gain credibility by initially presenting a simplified version that is accessible, cheap and easily maintained,” added Melki.

It will take a while before Beirut’s skyline is greened. However, ambitious grassroots initiatives such asBeirut Wonder Forest are signs of a creative awareness that seeks to enhance livability in Beirut.