The neighbourhood of Qobbe in eastern Tripoli has been identified as one of the poorest and densest areas of Tripoli, in Lebanon, where 46 percent of the residents live on less than $4US a day. Qobbe is part of Tripoli’s “poverty belt” where, since the beginning of the 2011 crisis, Syrian refugees have been renting space for shelter, mostly in sub-standard buildings. While current estimates state that there are at least three thousand refugees in Qobbe, the area is still home to Lebanese and Palestinians, who arrived prior to the Syrian crisis, and has much suffered from the violent clashes between the Sunni and Alawite militia of neighbouring Bab Al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. These sectarian divides are one of the factors that drove the Lebanese Civil War, and resurfaced in 2011 – inflamed by the influx of Syrian refugees. Peace has held since 2015. The population influx and the complex political situation of Lebanon strain Qobbe's poor infrastructure networks (water, electricity, solid waste disposal among others) with a deteriorating built environment such as such as crumbled facades and balconies, broken street lights and degraded drainage systems, and lack of liveable public and communal spaces. These factors contribute to increase segregation and tensions between the refugee and host communities.
Before designing, our studio engaged with the residents in a conversation about public space and observed the vernacular architecture – not only the local construction techniques, but also the way existing space was occupied and the daily cultural habits of local residents and inhabitant. Aside from the informal interviews, the talks were also organized by focus groups with both Lebanese and Syrian residents. These have been arranged with the help of our partner, Solidarités International, which has been working in the area since 2016. Addressed with a bottom-up approach, effective design solutions for a "neutral" space - if such a concept can exist here - were aimed at encouraging social interaction among different backgrounds, ages, and gender together to the drawing table.
CREDITS: Andrea Panizzo, Anna Calogero, Gianluca Stefani, Alex Borrell.