Date: August 2008
Location: Nahr El Barid
Research team: Children and youth from Beit Atfal Assoumoud, Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation and Association Najdeh, Dalal Abed El Rahman, Sahar Hafeda
Partners: NBRC & UNRWA
Play pockets: (mis)use/(multi)use/(re)use
The proposal drew from the findings and propositions of the Play Space Project, conducted with children from Borj El Barajni camp in 2006 which explored informal play practices invented by children in the camps in response to their physical and social structure and the absence of play fields within them. From the functional, to the social and poetic, the children revealed that the re-use or misuse of architectural element holds great possibilities of play. Grandmother’s washing transformed the roof’s washing lines into paper plane racing grounds; a power cut transformed the walls into theatre screens. The children drew inspiration from the adult’s use of spaces as they had access to them when they were vacant. Children take advantage of what is left behind using permanent elements and mobile ones like furniture or unwanted items and mis/re/multi use them to create coincidental games that re-interpret the original meaning and function.
This process of invention is continuous and synonymous with the Children’s inhabitation of spaces in their every day lives, it is both intentional and coincidental. In a context such as this adult’s are hesitant to allow children to wonder far from home, preferring them to play within hearing or visual proximity. As a response to their social and physical context, the children created a series of play pockets: the alternative playground and hidden play topography in the camp.
The findings questioned the physical and programmatic form of a playground; as it suggested a duality of function in the camp’s public realm, the first apparent and formal adult use (intentional use of elements such as streets, pubic courtyards and so on, and the second suggestive and informal, such as the coincidental and inventive misuse of elements: the play pockets). It called for the formalization of the informal structure already created by the children.
Febrik’s proposal focused primarily on integrating architectural elements of play directly into different part of the public realm. In turn and in response to the dense urban context, the ‘playground’ as a designated formal space was fragmented into play pockets, with multiple functions, to be discovered through the daily living in the camp. We took the available public spaces apart and examine their physical, spatial, poetic and social components, considering carefully the sharing or dual function of these elements between adults and children.
The resultant proto-types considered both the practical and functional as well as the playful and social, each could be used in at least two different ways, one for adult social activities and the second for children play practices. Each proto-type, once used, was altered and tailored to become site/user specific.