Beirut, Lebanon



Partners: UCL; RELIEF Centre; Institute for Global Prosperity, Development Planning Unit
Funding: Global Challenges Research Fund
Collaborators: AUB Neighbourhood Initiative; Citizen scientists; Municipality of Beirut

The Karantina Participatory Spatial Intervention (PSI) comes as a medium-term assessment, six months after the blast which enabled an understanding of the changing landscape of local vulnerabilities following immediate efforts mobilised on the ground. The project aims to understand and realise the ways in which the residents of Karantina neighbourhood can participate in the design and co-production of interventions that address their vulnerabilities.

The built output of this project was informed by research conducted by citizen scientists, as well as input from the wider community and project partners. The physical spatial intervention that emerged sought to address the lack of child friendly public spaces in the neighbourhood of Karantina after the Beirut explosion. It aimed to do this by creating a safe, accessible and playful public space which could be used by everyone in the neighbourhood.

The first phase of this project involved the recruitment of citizen scientists. They are members of the community who are trained to work as social scientists and conduct research that accurately reflects their communities’ needs. The researchers attended the induction training that introduced them to the project’s aims, partners, timeline, the theories and concepts behind the research and research ethics. They also had the opportunity to learn and try out research tools. During the training, researchers also discussed the definition of public space and the related vulnerabilities that continue to exist in Karantina 6 months after the explosion.

The second phase of the project focussed on studying the selected site for the spatial intervention, as well as its surrounding, to develop a clear understanding of the space. The researchers conducted this research through participatory observation, semi-structured interviews and transect walks to investigate the space’s frequent users, how they used it, what time it was used, the challenges surrounding accessibility, the potential opportunities and the resident’s needs and aspirations towards the space. They highlighted several vulnerabilities surrounding these public spaces, including children playing between cars on unsafe roads and the military base taking over sidewalks. Through semi-structured interviews with the local community, the researchers added to their knowledge about the vulnerabilities of different social groups using public spaces. 

In response to the research, a preliminary design was made for the site of intervention and shared in a design consultation with the community. We collected  their feedback to implement in the final design. The consultation allowed us to gauge the different priorities of the community and what they sought from the space. 

To assess the wider vulnerabilities of Karantina, the researchers were also involved in two consultation workshops in which we developed problem trees that highlighted the main issues in the neighbourhood. They then created solution trees in which they laid out a vision of “the ideal Karantina” and the steps that needed to be taken to get there. 

As the construction phase began, the researchers noted the engagement from the community as the work progressed. Once the spatial intervention was complete, the researchers monitored the impact of this intervention.

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