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. In Karantina, the availability of safe and accessible public space is highly lacking – as is the case in much of Beirut.
By transforming an area of neglected and unused public land into a safe and child friendly public space, this project seeks to tackle this absence. 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.
After researching the space and its surroundings, our team put together a preliminary design that was presented to Karantina’s residents at a community design consultation on site. In response to this consultation we identified three priorities that informed the final design of the space: a space that was child friendly, leisure infrastructure that could be used by all and somewhere that felt safe.
The public space was thus designed to create a safe space that both enabled adults to gather with their friends, and children to have a fun and exciting place to play. We encouraged this by designing features that could be left to the interpretation of their users. For instance, we designed a long, wide and colorful bench that cuts across the space and could be used for seating, changing diapers, running along, sliding down, cycling on, and even jumping off. We also put in bicycle racks which could be used to sit on, rest on or climb under.
As part of the design we also chose materials that wouldn’t need high or frequent maintenance to ensure easy upkeep of the space. The materials that we chose were all sourced locally so that when repairs were needed they could be easily repaired by local skilled labourers. The design of the space was also influenced by the abundance of old trees on site which we wanted to incorporate into the space and prevent being cut down.
For the construction phase of the project we hired workers from the local area, including residents who lived in the building by the site. Throughout the process we also negotiated with residents in the immediate surrounding to ensure that decisions around the construction worked for everyone. For instance, we collaborated with the most senior resident in Karantina to address his concerns around the space by fixing the facade of his building, mending his balcony and fixing the plumbing work to ensure his safety, but also the safety of the future users of the public space.
Since the space has opened it has been exciting to see how children and other residents have chosen to use each of its elements. Their new ways of interacting with it continue to surprise us. But, most of all we’re pleased that this space is an area Karantina’s residents can use without needing to abide by opening hours and prohibitive restrictions.
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