Inclusive public spaces in Lebanon are scarce and often not considered a priority in the public works plans of local municipalities. An inclusive public space is somewhere that should be accessible by everyone, including women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, greatly benefit from using these kinds of spaces as they provide an accessible place for them to play with their parents and friends.
In Lebanon, where social segregation and tension is prominent, inclusive public spaces can act as a physical place for equality. However, most public spaces do not offer safe or welcoming spaces for everyone. As a result, it is often difficult to incentivise vulnerable groups to use these spaces as they may face either physical or psychological barriers. In addition to this, there is also a widespread misconception that inclusive playgrounds are expensive. For instance, it is often thought that play items may need to be imported from abroad. This assumption keeps public bodies such as municipalities, schools and NGOs from investing, or even considering implementing such interventions.
With this project we aim to raise awareness about the importance of inclusive public spaces by engaging local community members and different municipalities in the design of these innovative spaces. This practical approach intends to empower the local community by demonstrating that inclusive spaces can be created using local material, knowledge and skills – benefiting both the local economy and its citizens.
The design of Arsal inclusive park focussed on two main elements: creating an inclusive playground and making the public space accessible. The design concept for the playground centred around two spatial components: a ‘playful ramp’ and ‘playful stations’. The ‘playful ramp’ met two objectives: while it could be used as a play item by all children, it also provided a means of access for children with disabilities to enter the upper level of the existing public space. The ‘playful stations’ in the park offered different play experiences for children, allowing for active play, imaginative play and sensory play.
The design for these stations was inspired by the landscape of Arsal, which is mostly characterised by buildings scattered across mountainous scenery. Mimicking the landscape around them, the ‘playful stations’ roofs were thus colourful and sloped, as if part of the scenery. We also made use of the existing infrastructure by transforming the non-accessible bathrooms into toilets that could be used by everyone.
In 2020, we worked on incorporating play items for toddlers in the Arsal public park. This included interactive panels as well as sensory play items with shapes, colours and music.
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