Nathalie Harb's design for a platform that covers cars and creates a greenspace in the city
Nathalie Harb's design for a platform that covers cars and creates a greenspace in the city

Beirut-based architects design new uses of city's public spaces

Architects and designers participating in this year's Beirut Design Week advocated for new uses of the Lebanese city's public spaces.

Local designers transformed public spaces with projects including a garden on stilts, a pop-up library and a movable bench, with each intending to show the potential of the previously over-looked spaces.

Urban Hives by Nathalie HarbNathalie Harb's Urban Hives, which creates a platform ontop of cars where communal gardens can be grown

“In Beirut, the people have no control over public space,” said architect Mona El Hallak during a roundtable held during the event. “They think it does not belong to them, so they don’t use it.”

“We don’t currently have a notion of public ownership and we need to encourage municipalities to think differently,” she added.

One installation was created by Beirut-based designer Nathalie Harb. A prototype for her Urban Hives: low-cost modular shelters, the project is designed to be assembled over parking spaces. The car-length platforms provide shade for the cars while also creating a surface for large communal gardens.

Red Riding Hood by District DA bench designed by students from the American University of Beirut

Another is an interactive bench designed by students from the American University of Beirut, including Rana Haddad, Pascal Hachem, Tala El Khatib, Jad Najm, Tima Rabbat and Mariya Zantout, which is intended to encourage conversation between residents.

According to Ghassan Salameh, managing and creative director of Beirut Design Week, the organisers behind the event wanted the city’s designers and architects to contribute to social change at a grassroots level.

'Silent Room' by Nathalie Harb

Hoping to show design’s impact beyond commercial use, Salameh said “design can make a positive impact on residents’ lives,” and that as a non-commercial trade show, the event is free from partnerships with brands.

“In a city that has so many problems and a lack of governance, what is the role of design in improving lives in the city?" he added. 

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