On the weekend of January 28th and 29th, 2012, 10 visual arts students from Germany and 10 from Lebanon took part in an exciting workshop on public interventions for green public spaces! The workshop was organized by Beirut Green Project in collaboration with the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg.
What is the role of engaged visual artists when it comes to the issue of public
green spaces in Beirut ? We met for two days of discussions, brainstorming, co-creation and fun !
The participants formed 4 teams, each of which had to document the topic given, create a public intervention in less than 24 hours, and propose a long term solution project. After a factual presentation by Sandra Rishani, author of Beirut the fantastic, each team implemented an intervention on the streets of Beirut, and presented their outcomes the next day in AltCity to an audience of artists, activists, NGOs, curious city-dwellers, and anyone else who was interested!
Team #1: Creation of new public green spaces
Team members: Rami Chahine, Jessica Leinen, Ida Roscher, Nuray Demir, Emne Mroue.
This team decided that the few trees in Hamra should be transformed into usable public spaces, which are inclusive and inviting. They chose a tree on Hamra Street, one on a wide sidewalk, and installed a small table around the tree (made of small wooden fruit crates), and put larger plastic crates around the tree for people to sit on. They wrote messages on the installation, inviting people to join them, such as “tfaddalo”, and “take a rest”, hence creating a public space on the sidewalk for everyone to enjoy.
Their suggested long-term solution was to use more durable material, have a rain shield, and of course notify the authorities of this addition to the public space. The neighbouring cafes could also be asked to make sure that the installation is not destroyed, hence providing a very localized sense of ownership of the space.
Team #2: Awareness of existing public green spaces
Team members: Lukas Engelhardt, Nicolas Patrix, Rasheed Jalloul, Hannes Stimmann, Theres Lehmann
This team decided to increase awareness of the existence of green spaces in the city by creating a “green map”, highlighting the various green spaces in the city and their relevant features. They created flying Chinese lanterns, on which this map would be printed. The lanterns would be lit and fly above the city, carrying small envelopes full of seeds to be planted. It was hoped that the envelopes would either land on a piece of earth and be immediately planted, or that someone would find it and read the “Plant Me” message written on the envelope. The goal was to symbolically increase the amount of green space in Beirut, beyond the borders of the few parks and gardens. The maps would serve to inform people of the green spaces around them, and to invite them to visit one of the green spaces nearby.
Their long-term suggestion was to create the map in print and interactive versions. The interactive version would employ social media, giving people the possibility to participate in creating the map, by uploading and tagging pictures of public green spaces, for instance.
Team #3: Rehabilitation of public green spaces
Team members: Dany dabbagh, Katherine Altaparmakov, Hala Tawil, Ranine Homsy, Anke Schima.
This team chose Sioufi Garden as a space to rehabilitate. The team members went around the park and visually pointed out all the things that could be improved in it in order to make it more inviting and functional: benches, bins, water fountains, bathrooms… For instance, they made cardboard drawings of grass, and placed them where there was supposed to be grass. They filled an empty fountain with blue balloons. They stuck signs on the garbage bins saying “Fill me up!” and other such messages. They tied bandages ironically around broken benches. They filled some completely dysfunctional spaces with small post-its with question marks on them.
One suggestion to work on rehabilitating this park was to have an event with the neighbors and friends of that space, and having them playfully pinpoint what they want to have fixed first in the park, and gradually raising funds for each problem at a time.
Team #4: Arts and Public Spaces
Team members: Karim Badra, Claudia Koch, Joy Younan, Selina Baumann, Richard Pelgrim
The challenge for this team was to make art a part of the public space. They explored the idea of indoor, private, space going outdoors, to the public arena, since we are more comfortable making and exposing art in our homes. So they created a mobile living room outdoors that would move for one day along the corniche, and up to Hamra Street. This moving living room invited all passersby to join them, and gave them and array of coloured chalks, encouraging them to use the public pavement as a canvas of self-expression, therefore symbolically reclaiming public spaces as their own. As they moved, they left behind a trail, or path, of colourful drawings along the streets of Beirut.
Their long-term suggestion was to have such an “art path” as part of a yearly festival, and making everyone participate in the creation of that path.
Overall it was an immensely successful and interesting workshop, and the long-term ideas proposed by the students are currently being followed-up, and will hopefully lead to full-fledged projects in the near future! We are very thankful to all who contributed to the success of this endeavour, including the very talented students, Daniel Kerber and Friedrich Van Borries from the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Sandra Rishani, AltCity, Ghazel el Banet, Ceramics n’more, Firas Yatbokh, and of course all who attended the final presentation and shared their thoughts and ideas! Thank you for contributing to this inspiring event!
Check out some additional pictures here, the video’s coming up very soon, stay tuned!