The rehabilitation of Karantina Public Park is a project implemented in response to the devastating 4th of August Beirut Port Blast. The first phase of this project was conducted in partnership with Terres Des Hommes Italy and UNICEF Lebanon, and in collaboration with the AUB neighbourhood initiative and the Municipality of Beirut.
Karantina is a multi-ethnic and low-income neighbourhood in Beirut that we’ve been working in since 2016. The Beirut Port Blast took place just 600 metres away from Karantina, making it one of the areas most impacted by the blast and accentuating the neighbourhood’s existing vulnerabilities. One of the spaces devastated by the blast was Karantina Park, a public space we designed the play items for back in 2016. In response to these damages, this project sought to rehabilitate the park and create a safe space for children to play. The project was underpinned by a process of participatory design to ensure the space reflected the needs and ideas of Karantina’s community.
The first phase of this project consisted of a series of participatory design activities aimed at understanding what the community of Karantina wanted from their public park. We conducted these activities with children, adolescents and their caregivers, most of whom we had known since 2016. We encouraged children to express their ideas for the park through drawing, storytelling activities, and acting as young architects. Their ideas for the park reflected their desire for a colourful space, lots of greenery and play items that could be used collectively. Design consultations with caregivers alluded to the need for a space that could be easily maintained, as well as somewhere that they felt was safe for their children to play in. Caregivers also suggested that there could be a quiet space within the park which children could use for relaxing or learning.
The rehabilitation design for the park was developed in response to the ideas and suggestions from the community during the participation phase, as well as measures which ensured the space was inclusive, safe and accessible for all. Building on children’s ideas for collective play, we implemented play items which could be used safely by lots of children at once. For instance, we designed and implemented a giant slide and a snake swing for multiple users, as well as tree stumps for jumping, a climbing wall and pull up bars. We also incorporated play items such as music rollers and wooden windows that were suitable for toddlers as many caregivers pointed out that the park was lacking this before. For adolescents – after popular demand – we designed a TikTok stand on top of the bridge that they can use to shoot their videos. Our design for the park also incorporated new benches, water points, a toilet sign and access paths. In addition to the new items we added, the design involved fixing aspects of the park which had been damaged during the blast. This included rehabilitating existing tables and benches, paint works, play items and the park’s decking and handrail.
As part of the rehabilitation we also designed and implemented an indoor space called ‘Makani’ – my place – which transformed an unused room into a multipurpose child friendly space. The design was based on the community’s needs and aspirations to provide Karantina’s children, and their local community, with a safe environment that could be used to conduct a wide range of educational and recreational activities, including art and psychosocial support. We have already begun using this space to conduct lots of activities as part of our Kan Ya Makan program.
The construction process was led by a team of local workers, including both Syrian and Lebanese labourers, many of whom were from the neighbourhood of Karantina. The materials used for the construction of the park were also sourced locally, not only enhancing the local economy but also ensuring that the park could be easily repaired. Children also took part in the construction phase by creating a mosaic on top of one of the benches, painting colourful tiles and leaving their permanent mark on the space.
Through this participatory process which focussed on children, we were able to ensure that the rehabilitation of the park accurately reflected the community’s desires and needs. We are continuing to activate this space by working with the community through our Kan Ya Makan program, and with local groups who show interest in using the park for their activities. We believe that children have a right to feel safe, to play and to have a voice in the recovery of Beirut. The participatory design of Karantina Public Park has sought to go some way to addressing this by creating a safe place towards which children can feel a sense of ownership and belonging.