Innumerable Syrian children currently inhabit the refugee camps of Lebanon. Joana Dabaj, Riccardo Conti and Matteo Zerbiof CatalyticAction in Lebanon aim to engage with these children and help prepare them for life after relocation. They propose taking an abandoned pavilion from Expo 2015 in Milan and transforming it into a “schoolhouse” for children at the Jarahieh InformalTented Settlement in the El Marj, Lebanon. “The project provides not only space for education but also a dignified environment as a source of pride for the community who helped to build it,” praised the jury.Read more » pour en savoir plus (French) »
After the 2015 Milan Expo, the collaborators of the project repurposed the “Save the Children” pavilion to build a school for Syrian refugee children in the Jarahieh Informal Tented Settlement in the El Marj, Lebanon – an afterlife that could not have been more fitting. The pavilion was disassembled, shipped, and reassembled in a new configuration centered around an internal courtyard. Local residents were involved both in adapting the pavilion’s design to its new site and use as well as in the construction process. The wool from sheep – a waste product in the region – was used for insulation, a technique which has found resonance with the settlement’s inhabitants who are now employing it for their own homes. By reusing a temporary structure for a humanitarian purpose, the project contributes to sustainability through re-appropriation and calls attention to the opportunity for architectural structures to be re-used beyond their originally intended purpose.
The jury was greatly moved by the project’s contribution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees and the ingenious reinvention of the pavilion as a school. Within a context lacking basic infrastructure the project provides not only space for education, but also a dignified environment that is a source of pride for the community who helped to build it. Through the use of what would otherwise be material waste (i.e., both the pavilion and the wool insulation), the school is the impressive result of limited means and resources. The project is an implicit critique of the high-design, short lifecycle model of grand exhibition events and offers a potent template for future application.
A participatory process as catalyst for positive impact in the lives of the communities
The design was tailored around an interdisciplinary approach between the different stakeholders, having the community at the core of the process. CatalyticAction (CA) engaged with the children, teachers and family members in the ideation, design and construction of the project. Conceptual planning started with children participating in envisioning exercises that directly informed the design; they had the opportunity to be decision makers. By creating a community project through an inclusive approach, CA aims at improving social cohesion within the settlement and the neighboring Lebanese communities. The inclusive approach adopted succeeded in generating livelihood opportunities, capacity building, empowering women and children, boosting local economies and enhancing community resilience.
A sustainable and innovative building cycle for prosperity and transferability
The reuse strategy of a temporary pavilion structure to serve a humanitarian cause represents a positive example of a global sustainable strategy that aims at redistributing resources to tackle long-term global sustainability goals. The open space structure pavilion designed to take part of an International Expo was re-adapted to become a school space. The choice of materials adapted to the low budget and focused on empowering the local community. The materials were sourced locally including sheep wool, timber, corrugated metal sheeting, etc. Throughout the building process, workers from the settlement were employed; most were construction workers in Syria. The community members learned new building skills working alongside our team and transferred this knowledge to the youth.
Environmentally conscious, cultural and context specific design solutions
The school is located in the Bekaa valley, an agricultural area hosting thousands of refugees who endure harsh climate conditions. The design of the school adapted to the local context, facilitating the use of suitable technologies, materials and labor. The design also adhered to the cultural specificity and responded to the natural environment. The Lebanese sheep farms, 72 % of which are located in Bekaa, usually treat the sheep wool as waste. We chose to make use of this material for the school insulation. Sheep wool is a completely natural and sustainable material, its use empowered farmers and women in the process. The school design allows for bright, naturally lit and ventilated classrooms. The materials and techniques used inspired the families of the ITS to employ them in their shelters.See more
In the El Marj, Lebanon, located in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees, the project creates a dignified school …