IBTASEM Playground

Since 2011, the crisis in Syria has devastated lives and uprooted families that have been forced to find safety elsewhere. Syria’s neighbour Lebanon is one of the places where families have sought refuge, causing its population to surge over the last few years. However, with some towns’ populations doubling in size, public infrastructure has been unable to withstand this influx. This has led to social, economic and political tensions.

Children are particularly vulnerable in this situation, with many in Lebanon living in informal refugee settlements where safe play spaces are either absent or scarce. Article 31 of the UN Convention for the Rights of Children states that we should recognise their rights to: “rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities…to participate fully in cultural and artistic life”. Yet, while many humanitarian actors have responded to children’s most urgent needs, little has been done to provide safe and stimulating learning environments for children.

The IBTASEM pilot playground project sought to address this by highlighting the importance of safe play spaces for children in emergency contexts. It also strived to set an example of how participatory approaches can be used to design and build play spaces that accurately reflect the needs of children. Rather than simply providing ‘off the shelf’ items, children’s participation can ensure these spaces incorporate both their ideas and aspirations.
Incorporating this approach, The IBTASEM playground was designed with the participation of children, teachers and actors who play a major role in providing education to vulnerable children in Lebanon. The playground is a spatial response to the specific needs identified during this participatory process; it provides active, relaxing and educational spaces. Using local knowledge, materials and technologies, the result is a playground that is thoroughly rooted in its context.

Project ID

Year: 2015
Location: Bar Elias, Lebanon
Size: 280 m2
Partners: Kayany Foundation, AUB CCECS
Funding: CatalyticAction, extra funding by VIMALA
Collaborators: Da Move, Amour Samar
Volunteers: Enrico Porfido, Lorenzo Conti, Odysseas Mourtzouchos, Stefania Gyftopoulou, Maha Mrad, Wael Itani, Mohammad Fardoun, Sibylle George, Louma Ismail, Tarek Hobeika, Amani Khalil Kawas, Raed Hamad, Marc Monarcha, Joe Hallak
Consultants: Engineering consultancy by Arup Italy
Awards: Commendation in the ASF Award “2015 Learning South of North”
Primary users: 400 children

After the success of the IBTASEM playground, other organisations have recognised the validity of its design and impact. Since it was built, the design principles developed in the IBTASEM playground (e.g. modularity, technical solutions) have inspired five other playground projects in Syria, France and Lebanon:

Playground by Fondation Je veux jouer, Arihah, Syria, 2017
– Playground in Dunkirk MSF camp by TribeLab and Les Saprophytes, Dunkirk, France, 2017
– Playground by BSA with Sawa for Development & Aid, Bar Elias, Lebanon, 2018
– Playground by Fondation Je veux jouer, Sarmadā, Syria, 2019
– Playground by BSA with Kayany Foundation, Majdal Anjar, Lebanon, 2019


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We empower communities through design