Giulia Hartz
Giulia Hartz

Foreign & Foreignness

According to the Government of Lebanon estimates of 2016, the Country hosted 1.5 million Syrian refugees from the beginning of the Syrian Civil war in 2011. They constitute in total the 30% of the Lebanese population, making Lebanon the country with the highest number of refugees per inhabitant. While most of them rent their accommodations in around 1,700 locations countrywide, nearly a fifth (18%) live in non-formal settlements such as the Al-Yasmine refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley where the project “Foreign & Foreignness II” took place. From the collaboration between URDA, Union of Relief and Development Associations, Design Akademie Berlin and ALBA University of Beirut, the initial briefing was to develop ideas and strategies to turn an empty spot of the camp into a social space. The Design Thinking process we went through allowed us to reframe the challenge with a human-centered focus. The vision we developed aims to improve the quality of life for displaced people through building up a sense of belonging and strengthening their esteem needs. On a practical level, we designed a set of strategies connected to a poly-functional space which goal is to create an overall community building experience for the inhabitants of Al-Yasmine camp.  

However, the space has no meaning without an identity which people should be able to understand, touch and shape with their hands and imagination. “Al-Yasmine” means Jasmine flower as Damascus is the city of Jasmine, for this reason the Arabic calligraphic logo resembles a flower. The same Jasmine flower is then simplified into a light blue shape and eventually evolves into a pattern inspired by the Syrian ceramic tradition. Furthermore, the pattern is laser-cut into stencils and stamps. The camp’s citizens are then provided with the tools to take an active role into the development of the place they live and enabled to express their creativity. The set of visual artifacts is inspired by the people’s cultural background, designed to make their identity visible and only made real by their participation.