ongoing - Architecture and Participatory Development

Catalytic Action is a design studio and charity that works to promote human rights through the use of strategic and innovative community-led spatial interventions.


The children outside this picture sit in the school yard and look into the site of construction, about to take a dive. It is a hot summer's day in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon, and the children, coming from surrounding refugee settlements, find refuge at their school.

Above them is the mosaic piece they have been working on for the past couple of days, every child in the school has painted a tile. The mosaic reads Fursa, that is Arabic for chance. As a school-term, Fursa translates to 'recess or break'. In the every day, Fursa is 'chance'.

Fursa is the name of the playground we are building. The students, months before the construction took place, participated in its design, drawing and modeling their vision of what they'd like their playground to look like. The work of Catalytic Action in building this playground, holds the children's expression and values as the foundation of thought, design and architecture.

During construction, the same children are present and participate in bringing the playground to life.

A program by Catalytic Aciton

Kan Ya Makan (Once Upon a Place) is a design-build program based on storytelling, artistic explorations and spatial interventions, initiated after the August 4th port explosion in 2020. With the Karantina public garden damaged and most children deeply scarred, the program had several aims: to explore and reimagine spaces of safety mentally, emotionally and physically; through this process, to renovate the park with the children and rebuild a loving and caring relationship with the space; to advocate for the park to be open to the public and in the hands of the community.

Most public parks in Lebanon are not accessible due to corruption and a general lack of respect for the common goods. This program feeds into a larger movement of reclaiming public spaces run by local civil society groups.

As a resident artist and educator from CatalyticAction’s team, I have been designing, directing and leading the program on the ground since the start, creating crossovers between Zayraqoun, other artists and cultural groups based on the emerging themes as the program evolved.

The following videos show parts of the process, filmed by the children

Through art, theatre and filmmaking we co-created the ‘Hawiya’ (means ‘bin’ in English) parade. Children created their protest signs with messages of “Happiness, Care and Play”, they custom painted the wheel barrel, created the chant, and filmed one another as we walked around the neighbourhood's public spaces with the aim to #CleanUp and inspire others to join us. Through the Kan Ya Makan كان يا مكان program, we have been working with children to tackle important issues they raised in relation to the care of the neighbourhood’s #publicspaces.

'Kan Ya Makan' program introduces storytelling, imagination and play, inviting the children of Karantina to reimagine, reconstruct, and reconnect with the physical and nonphysical spaces they inhabit. In this video, the children venture to help the newly planted trees live and grow tall by adding canes harvested from their neighborhood.