“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationship”
Karantina is a low-income neighborhood located in Al-Mudawwar district, North-East of Beirut. It is a mixed-use neighborhood: residential, commercial including art galleries and office spaces, healthcare highlighted by the Karantina Hospital, industrial such as Sukleen and Bakalian Flour Mills, recreational like Forum de Beirut and B018 nightclub. The neighborhood is host to communities from several ethno-religious backgrounds including Christians, Muslims, and Armenians. The Karantina neighborhood underwent intense political conflicts during the civil war to the extent that until now, 27 years later, many residents did not recover. Some old militia heads still have the same power over their quarters and that resulted into a divided neighborhood between Christians and Muslim until the present day.
The Karantina Public Park, located at the heart of the neighborhood, underwent a renovation process carried out by landscape design consultants and creative direction of Zeina Kronfol and Pamela Haydamous in collaboration with the Beirut municipality. CatalyticAction were commissioned to design and produce play items animating the Park through community participation and engagement.
The aim of this intervention is mainly to create a meeting point for its diverse communities living in its vicinity. It also wants to highlight the importance of public spaces in peacemaking.
Atmospheres for Encounters in Karantina, Beirut.
The Karantina public park represents a main opportunity space to resolve the conflict residing between the several community groups. With this project we aim at creating identity, creating places rather than spaces and communities rather than entities. The area of intervention revolved around a pedestrian bridge added through the refurbishment of the park by designers Zeina Kronfol and Pamela Haydamous. The bridge is a sculpture in the park, an attraction in itself and a platform to host activities. The activities were inspired by site visits and observations of the kids that used to attend the park and play around it.
The strategy for the Karantina Park installation attempts to target all generations through human resources projects by arranging weekly workshops with the children and youth across the communities. To accomplish this, CatalyticAction collaborated with three local groups: The Chain Effect, Recycle Lebanon and Urban pins.
The introductory workshops carried out by CatalyticAction included a series of drawing and model making to introduce the children to the project and engage them in the initial design process.
As bicycles are a core element in the neighbourhood, especially with the children, the workshops with the Chain Effect aim at enhancing this characteristic, raise awareness about the role of cycling, and look at the potential for bicycles beyond movement, sport and leisure. The workshops range from creating a bicycle themed giant mural painting, learning bike repair with a permanent maintenance station to be constructed in the park, bike rides around the neighbourhood and beyond, to using bikes to generate energy through a dynamo.
The workshops carried out with Recycle Lebanon aimed to teach the children about the importance of the environment, through recycling and permaculture. This included sorting collected garbage from the neighbourhood and container planting.
Noticing that scavenger hunting for leftover materials to build primitive structures is a common activity among the children of the neighbourhood. This observation helped develop the idea with Urban Pins of teaching the children how to use leftovers to make musical instruments.
A concluding workshop carried out by CatalyticAction included painting a large mural on the wall of a factory in the surrounding area of the park. The people living a bit further from the park wanted to have a mural there as well so in order to create a sense of equality amongst the several communities we stretched the intervention to this further location. Children and youth from the several communities participated in making it, and the silhouettes of the various participants were projected on it.
The crosscutting general objectives of the workshops are self-awareness, what this public space means to them and their families and what they have to do to maintain it; Self-expression, they have the right to speak up about their public space and how they need it to be; Teamwork and acceptance of the other; Creativity, to use their creativity to assist in the design making; and Acquaintances, the different community members become familiar with each other and the CA team.
The designed Play items built around the bridge are inspired by the workshops carried out and observations throughout the process. The play items include: active spaces such as the zip wire, climbing wall and swings; Music interactive games such as the xylophone and bells station; Relaxing space such as the multilevel bench; Exploratory play items such as the periscope and mirrors. Betabat contractors supported the fixing of these play items on site.
Other parties involved directly in this project are:
Landowner: Beirut Municipality
Landscape Design Consultants & Creative Direction: Zeina Kronfol + Pamela Haydamous
Collaborators: Tandem Works for organizing the Open call for artists
Community engagement workshop partners: The Chain Effect, Recycle Lebanon, Urban pins