Karantina’s urban public space project is a partnership with UN Habitat Lebanon, funded by SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation) and Fondation de France. The project sought to upgrade the streets in the neighbourhood of Karantina, both around the Beirut Governmental Hospital, the National HIV and TB Centre and the Karantina Public Park. An area that bustles with cars, this project focussed on making Karantina’s streets more pedestrian and child friendly by improving the infrastructure in the neighbourhood. The design interventions for this project were underpinned by a participatory approach ensuring input from the local community around their needs, visions and aspirations for the space.
We conducted a range of participatory activities and interviews with children, young people and caregivers. For the children and younger residents involved in these workshops, we encouraged them to view themselves as architects. Exploring the site with our team members, they reflected on what they liked, disliked and thought could be improved around the site. Their ideas included adding seating areas, lights, play items, speed bumps, shading and greenery. They brought a range of ideas and there was a vibrant debate about where each of these items should be placed and what should be prioritised. In addition to these workshops, we also conducted informal interviews with regular users of the area including caregivers, business owners and military officers. A common theme they alluded to was the need to slow down cars to ensure children’s safety, the need for adequate seating so the space is suitable for stopping, and the importance of colour and greenery for making the streets appealing. These workshops and interviews were complemented using observational methods carried out by our team to assess how the area is used both by vehicles and pedestrians.
Building on this participatory phase, the design centred on four key areas: slowing the traffic; making the area inclusive and pedestrian friendly; creating play opportunities for children and enhancing existing social activities. In order to tackle the issue of traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians, the design involved adding a new roundabout, replacing the old median strip, and introducing speed bumps and road markings to regulate car parking and movement. To increase the safety of pedestrians and make the area more accessible, the design focussed on improving the existing sidewalks, creating pedestrian crossings and building access ramps. Part of this involved creating a new sidewalk under a group of existing trees which allowed for natural shade. On this new sidewalk, we implemented a long bench where pedestrians are able to gather and spend some time there. By adding more trees and plants to the sidewalks, roundabouts and new median in front of the hospital, the intervention aims to create more shade and greenery, giving the area the feel of an urban park. Finally, to facilitate play, the long and colourful bench along the sidewalk can be used for seating, jumping off and running along, there are also floor games along the pavement for children to interact with as they use the space.
By improving the infrastructure around the Karantina public hospital and Karantina Public Park, this intervention has made the area more accessible, comfortable, safe and enjoyable for the neighbourhood’s residents and visitors. It has encouraged social activity with its range of gathering spaces and provided entertainment for children through the playful aspects of the project. This is complemented by the traffic intervention solutions which have made the area feel a lot safer.