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 Hermel 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 the park in Hermel focused on maintaining the natural character of the space, while introducing places where everyone could play or relax. The design divided the public park into three main areas: a family area, a playground and a football court. To enable full accessibility to each of these areas, we added a new concrete access path that led to all play facilities and spaces.
The family area in the park was used a lot by families for picnics. To enhance this social activity, the intervention provided permanent tables and chairs which emulated the park’s natural elements. We interspersed these tables with play facilities for toddlers so that parents could relax while watching their young children play.
Like the playground in Arsal, the Hermel playground included three stations for various types of play: active, imaginative and sensory. The football court was set up on an existing space where children often played football. Most of the playground components have been painted yellow to create a colourful contrast with the green of the grass, trees and plants.
In this project we built our first locally manufactured roller slide which can be used by children on wheelchairs too. Only by working directly with local providers, understanding the local market and local construction skills that we were able to achieve that. This is a very simple example that proves the importance of procurement as a crucial step in the realisation of innovative design solutions.
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