Community-Based Design as Mediator between Academia and Practice: The Case of Souq Sabra, Beirut
Souq Sabra is one of Beirut’s most popular markets, stretching from the neighborhood of Tariq el Jdideh on the southern edge of municipal Beirut to Al Rihab roundabout in the adjoining southern suburbs (Figure 10.1). Attracting a diverse population of refugee camp residents, expatriate temporary workers and lower income inhabitants from across the city, Souq Sabra is a thriving market although informally managed and poorly maintained. Its Saha [main square] stretches across the boundary between the two municipalities of Beirut and Ghobeiri, blurring the responsibility for public improvement and maintenance. To address the poor conditions of the open spaces within the souq, the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), partnered with the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development (HFSHD), conducted a community-based design study with a team of students in consultation with both community representatives and local merchants. The chapter is a reflection on my personal experience as an active faculty member of the team and considers the processes and outcomes of this study, looking at community-based design both as an intervention tool that provides a viable alternative in the absence of state development plans and municipal services, and as a pedagogical tool that constitutes a mediating platform between design education and practice.