Bar Elias, Lebanon

2014 - 2015

215 m²


Partners: Kayany Foundation; AUB CCECS
Funding: CatalyticAction; VIMALA
Collaborators: Da Move; Amour Samar; Enrico Porfido; Lorenzo Conti; Odysseas Mourtzouchos; Stefania Gyftopoulou; Maha Mrad; Wael Itani; Mohammad Fardoun; Sibylle George; Louma Ismail; Tarek Hobeika; Amani Khalil Kawas; Raed Hamad; Marc Monarcha; Joe Hallak

Consultants: Engineering consultancy by Arup Italy

Since 2011, the crisis in Syria has devastated lives and uprooted families that have been forced to find safety elsewhere. Lebanon is one of the countries where displaced Syrian families have sought refuge, causing its population to surge over the last few years. However, with some towns’ populations doubling in size, public infrastructure has been unable to withstand this influx. This has led to social, economic and political tensions.


Children are particularly vulnerable in this situation, with many living in informal refugee settlements where safe play spaces are either absent or scarce. Article 31 of the UN Convention for the Rights of Children states that we should recognise their rights to: “rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities…to participate fully in cultural and artistic life”. Yet, while many humanitarian actors have responded to children’s most urgent needs, little has been done to provide safe and stimulating learning environments for children.

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The IBTASEM pilot playground project sought to address this by highlighting the importance of safe play spaces for children in emergency contexts. It also strived to set an example of how participatory approaches can be used to design and build play spaces that accurately reflect the needs of children. Rather than simply providing ‘off the shelf’ play items, children’s participation can ensure these spaces incorporate both their ideas and aspirations.

Incorporating this approach, the IBTASEM playground was designed with the participation of children, teachers and actors who play a major role in providing education to vulnerable children in Lebanon. The playground is a spatial response to the specific needs identified during this participatory process; it provides active, relaxing and educational spaces.

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Using local knowledge, materials and technologies, the result is a playground that is thoroughly rooted in its context. The playground was built following the active participation of local communities, including children, and a team of volunteers who participated in two design-build workshops led by our team.

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