The Karantina neighbourhood intervention ‘Makani’ – my place- is a project developed to provide the area’s residents with a safe, inclusive and playful public space. To ensure the space accurately reflects both the needs and desires of its users, the project employed co-design methods that allowed the neighbourhood’s diverse voices to be heard.
To select the site of intervention, we used various selection methodologies including participatory observation, mapping, and interviewing local community members and key stakeholders to find plots of public land that would ensure accessibility to all. The plot that was finally chosen was located at the intersection of Rmeil street and Mashghara street in close proximity to residential housing where many children live with their families.
The project began with a community clean-up activity to start activating the space so that the visualisation and transformation of the space could begin. With the help of volunteers, recruited citizen scientists and the CatalyticAction team, the site was gradually cleared. The clean up of the space also provided an opportunity for us to ask children and other residents what they’d like from this new space. We used participatory design tools such as: transect walks and Focus Group Discussions. The community’s key concerns were around safety and having somewhere nice to play which they expressed through a desire for colour and levelled tiling to make the space more usable.
We presented the preliminary design to Karantina’s residents at a community design consultation on site.The design consultation allowed us to gauge the different priorities of the community and what they sought from the space. This included calls for greenery, seating areas in the shade, lighting for women to feel safe, and a safe place that could be used by all age groups.
As part of our activation of this public space and our ongoing Kan Ya Makan project, we organised a mural activity with the street artist Ghiath Al-Robih. He painted a mural with the children which incorporated tactile features such as a cat and a bird to encourage sensory play. We also invited a group of Beirut Skaters from the Lebanese skateboarding association to teach children some new moves and to show them different ways in which the space could be used. In collaboration with the art collective Zayraqoun, we organised two activities: an open parade in which children and community residents used this space for expression; and an interactive theatre performance with children to learn about nurturing their new public space and treating each other with respect.
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