El Mina, Lebanon

2021 - 2022


Partners: UCL; PROCOL Lebanon; RELIEF Centre; Institute for Global Prosperity 
Collaborators: El-Mina municipality; Citizen Scientists: Alaa El Merehby, Bassem Zawdeh, Ghassan El Bakri, Heba El Haji, Houda Kabbara, Mahmoud Sleiman and Taha Mersalli
Funding:  RELIEF Centre; Otto per Mille of the Waldensian Church of Italy

El Mina Participatory Spatial Intervention – Mina PSI-  is a research project implemented in the city of El-Mina, Tripoli, North Lebanon. Mina PSI builds on the “Prosperity Index of El Mina” research conducted with the RELIEF centre and the “Design and Implementation Guide for Young Children and Caregivers in Deprived Urban Areas” research conducted with ARUP and Bernard van Leer foundation.

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This project focused on an area in the Corniche that is closest to some of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods of El Mina: Al-Masaken social housing, and Hay Al-Tanak informal settlement. Mina PSI researched the uses of the Corniche, and how it can be improved to understand and realise the ways in which residents and regular users of the public space can participate in the design and co-production of inclusive and resilient infrastructure that addresses their vulnerabilities. A key output was the creation of a spatial intervention MAUJ which responds to the challenges the research highlighted. 

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We employed participatory research and participatory design methods in collaboration with a group of local citizen scientists who were part of the broader Prosperity team of El Mina. The citizen scientists received further training about participatory design, space use observations and analysis. They focussed on five key research areas: the number and type of people moving across; the pedestrian mode of movement count; the types of stationary activity taking place; understanding users’ perception of the space and how people get to it. After conducting their research, citizen scientists regrouped to discuss their findings. These involved learning about the time of the day the Corniche is at its busiest and why, the fact that the elderly and people with special needs struggle to access the Corniche, and that specific interventions were needed for caregivers who felt the space was unsafe for their children. The citizen scientists used their observations to develop the design brief that informed the design. 

“The training I received really helped me gain confidence in engaging people in my city, gaining their trust and hearing about their life experiences.”

After a design charrette workshop, the citizen scientists put forth their ideas for the physical spatial intervention. Their suggestions were underpinned by the resolution that it was best to focus on improving the space for the activities that already took place on it rather than introducing new uses. The next phase involved a series of design consultations with citizen scientists and the municipality, as well as a public design consultation on the site of intervention. The  feedback collected was then incorporated into the final design of the spatial intervention MAUJ (waves in English). This final design consists of three different stations spread across the Corniche.

The final part of this project involved citizen scientists in supervising the construction work, monitoring the intervention during the construction and post-implementation. Together with the citizen scientists we planned a series of community activities to activate the space once construction is completed. 

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