In response to the Beirut Port Blast on the 4th of August 2020, we partnered with Himaya to rehabilitate two neglected public parks in Beirut – Karm Al Arees Park and Kaskas Park. The rehabilitations focussed on transforming these parks into inclusive, accessible and child friendly spaces that could be used by the local community for everyday use, activities and gatherings. Working in close coordination with the Municipality of Beirut and Himaya NGO, the design for these parks was centred on making public spaces that could be used and enjoyed by everyone.
Karm El Arees public park is located in Basta, a vulnerable neighbourhood in Beirut. Before the rehabilitation the park was neglected. While there was a small space for children to play and benches to sit, the residents we spoke to felt that the park was unsafe for children, dirty and in need of major repair. Divided into several levels, the park is naturally very green and the design we came up with sought to reflect this. To rehabilitate the play space for children, we removed the damaged plastic play structures and replaced them with four tower-like play structures. Connected by an accessible path, these towers are cladded with wood to preserve the natural feeling of the trees.
Residents told us that kids loved to climb on the trees in the park, so to enable children to continue playing freely while also maintaining the trees, we designed the towers so that they could be climbed on. However, to ensure their inclusivity, the towers can also be entered at the bottom level where children can find opportunities for physical, sensory and social play. This includes play items such as speaking pipes, music rollers, spinning cubes and a nest swing. One of these towers has also been specifically designed as a quiet space, built around an existing tree, where children might want to come to feel safe and relaxed. There are also play items dotted around the park such as tree stumps for children to sit or jump off, as well as floor games integrated into the blocks of the path.
In addition to the play area, we created a new workshop area with two tables and benches that can be used for activities with the community or people who want to gather there, including wheelchair users. To ensure full accessibility to the park we implemented two main access ramps, one at the entrance gate, and one from the entrance level to the first level – where the new inclusive play area can be found. We also rehabilitated the bathrooms, adding a new accessible bathroom at the upper level.
As part of this rehabilitation with Himaya, we also collaborated with the OtherDada to create two pocket forests in commemoration of the victims of the 2020 Beirut Blast and the Japanese botanist Dr Miyawaki, who died that year. The victims’ families helped to plant these miniature forests, which will benefit children by adding a component of nature therapy to the park, as well as improving the biodiversity of the area.
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