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Karm El Zeitoun, Lebanon


DI-Lab, Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut
Karim Najjar, Balsam Madi, Ahmad Nouraldeen
Dima El Ayache, Zeina Chamseldine, Elias Chamoun, Julia Saab
Partners & Consultants
Local Karm El Zeitoun authorities

Karm El Zeitoun is one of the few places that feels like a village in Beirut. This quality allows it to be a unique cozy hub in the midst of the congested city as it allows its residences to interact with the urban form. The gates and streetscapes of Karm El Zeitoun are clustered with personalized furnishings that become an urban extension of the household to the public street. Its residents make up to the lack of public green spaces in the area by placing chairs and pots of greenery outside their doors to create a social communal setting.

Karm El Zeitoun is developed on a steep slope with extremely steep staircases with an extremely dense urban fabric. The staircases and slopes are steep and unsafe making it difficult for all age groups to circulate within the area. Karm EL Zeitoun lack maintenance and order of the existing infrastructure, financial resources, participatory youth (due to migration), and public green areas.

Following the Beirut blast on August 4, 2020, the whole city was devastated. One of the most affected areas within proximity of the port was Karm El Zeitoun. Adding to the already deteriorating state of the area and the negligence of it being a bit further away from the site of destruction as opposed to Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael and Karantina, we find that it is our duty as architects to turn eyes to that area, especially taking into consideration the marginalized communities inhabiting the space. After the blast, and in the era of a pandemic, it has become more difficult for the elderly to go out and roam the streets with the extreme steepness of slopes and staircases. We hope our intervention will bring a pint of a refreshing atmosphere to their lives and the area as a whole.

Our project aims to intervene upon the existing staircases with resting areas, benches, and in some cases adjusting the rise of the steps to become better accessible and inclusive for all. We aim to create green public spaces that encourage community bonding. Furthermore, we aim to boost the elderly’s economic welfare and decrease their dependence on their offspring. Our creative, colorful, and attractive designs plan to lure the passersby into the local stores to increase revenue. With our affinity to collaborations and sensibility towards empowering marginalized communities, we plan to highlight the local organizations that tend to those in need in the area, and simplify access towards these organizations.

Design for Communities (D4C Beirut)

Sadat Street, Aramouny Building, Floor 2
Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon


Organizer: Karim Najjar (Founder/President)
Ministry of Interior Affairs, Lebanon Reg. Nr. 2062