Walking around Beirut, one can't help but notice a lack of public places (parks, squares, gardens, esplanades, etc) and specifically conceived public seating (ben-ches, bus stops, etc). If we skip the Corniche, and a couple of small parks with opening and closing hours and strict rules and surveillance, common space in Beirut is a fleeting abstraction and is only experienced during displacement—incidentally, as roads and trajectories from point A to point B.
I wanted to create disruptions in the routes submitted by finding, improvising, or creating public places throughout them, places that encourage people to stop, relax, maybe interact or even play. Working around Hamra, I was able to distinguish three categories:
1. existing places that are in use as public place (even if such was not their purpose or design)
2. existing places that are usable/improvise-able as public place
3. spaces that I can hijack into public places by adding an element to them (such as a bench, chairs, a carpet, stools, a hammock, etc)
In a country with an endangered sense of community, a simple thing like indulging in public life becomes a guerilla action: hijacking sidewalks that have extra space to offer, sitting under the shade of a large tree, squatting in shopping center hallways and squares, bringing your own seating and planting it where you like.
Public space is vital for a healthy society. If the city does not give it, I invite you to take it. Take a moment to sit and experience these places I have gathered for you, or just find/create your own. It's not that difficult. Go with a friend; bring a game of backgammon, some musical instruments, a picnic, or just sit and talk. And maybe one sunny day, municipalities and ministries will catch on and join the fun.