Karantina is a low-income neighbourhood located in Al-Mudawwar district in the North-East of Beirut. It is a neighbourhood used by communities from several ethnoreligious backgrounds, including Christians, Muslims and Armenians. Karantina experienced intense political conflict during the Lebanese civil war which has left strong marks in the neighbourhood social fabric. This is evident in some quarters of the neighbourhood, where retention of power by old militia heads continues to create a geographical division between Christians and Muslims.
The project in the Karantina neighbourhood was initiated by a collaboration between the landscape design consultants Zeina Kronfol and Pamela Haydamous, and the Beirut Municipality. They joined forces to renovate Karantina Public Park, located in the heart of the neighbourhood. As part of this renovation, they contacted us to design and produce play items with the participation and engagement of the community.
Recognising the neighbourhood’s history and ongoing social dynamic, the aim of this project was to create a meeting point for the diverse communities living in the neighbourhood. We aimed to do this by creating a sense of identity – creating places rather than spaces and communities as opposed to entities. The participatory engagement strategy for this project was part of this process and we endeavoured that our weekly workshops targeted local residents, specifically children and the youth. To accomplish this, we collaborated with three local groups: The Chain Effect, Recycle Lebanon and Urban pins.
The introductory workshops carried out by CatlayticAction included a series of drawing and model making exercises to introduce the children to the project and engage them in the initial design process.
The workshops conducted by local groups focussed on more specific aspects of the neighbourhood. As bicycles are a core feature in the neighbourhood, especially among children, the workshops with Chain Effect aimed to enhance this characteristic. They raised awareness about the role of cycling in the community through a fun hands-on workshop in which children learned how to repair their bicycles.
The workshops carried out with Recycle Lebanon aimed to teach the children about the importance of the environment, focussing on recycling and permaculture. This included collecting garbage from the neighbourhood and sorting recyclables from non-recyclables.
The idea for Urban Pins’ workshop was developed in response to an observation of children’s scavenger hunting activities in the neighbourhood. They noticed that children collected scrap materials to build basic structures and so decided to show them how they could make musical instruments out of leftover materials.
CatalyticAction’s final workshop involved painting a large mural on the wall of a factory in the surrounding area. Seeing the mural, residents living further away from it, said that they also wanted one where they lived. In order to create a sense of equality between the two different communities, we thus created a mural in their area too.