Beirut, Lebanon




Partners: UN-Habitat Lebanon
Funding: UN-Habitat; Block by Block

Beirut’s public stairs project aimed to rehabilitate and enhance the social activities on the stairs of St Nicholas, Vendome and Laziza in the neighbourhoods of Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh, Beirut.

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We ran a series of co-design workshops with 22 young people (11 to 19 years old) living in Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh neighbourhoods to inform the designs of each one of the public stairs. Meeting at the project site, participants reflected on their use of the stairs, imaging themselves in the role of architect. They considered what they currently liked about the stairs, what they disliked and how they thought the stairs could be improved. Using the ‘Let’s be Architects’ participatory design tool, participants visualised these ideas by drawing and annotating axonometric views of the stairs.

“A slide from landing 4 to landing 3 will be fun for all children.”

Using Block By Block, participants built on these ideas to project their ideas onto virtual Minecraft models of the stairs. Common ideas included planting more greenery, implementing street furniture such as benches, adding lighting and trash bins. Lots of participants also created different coloured steps, street games, play items and art to the staircases. Participants presented their ideas and explained their thought processes, enabling them to reflect on their use of the stairs but also communicate the ways in which they’d change them.

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In addition to these participatory workshops with youth, we also conducted interviews and focus group discussions with regular users, residents and businesses on the stairs. This gave us an insight into how the stairs are experienced, as well as the issues residents faced and the ideas they had for improving them. 

The community engagement continued during the construction and post-construction phases to enhance the community’s sense of belonging to their shared spaces.

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