I always had the impression that the ballast lack of care for public spaces from a large part of the people in Middle East came from the lack of an historic battle to acquire it for the common good.
But most probably, it is an opinion due to my french education where the founding myth of the Revolution makes the Nation and turn each citizen into its guardian. Nation which is incarnated in public spaces, plazas, forests, boulevards, stadiums, etc.
Then, is it more due to the very strong cut, people do, between indoor and outdoor? You can see one throwing trash from his balcony or his car’s window, feeling at ease as long as interior is clean (and often, maniacally clean).
A decade ago, when the Lebanese politicians offered about ten percents of the void between the buildings (void that makes the city’s space) to the real estate investors, by allowing them to remove the outer wall thickness from the declared built area, no one complained.
As larger and higher buildings rise above a poor infrastructure (sewage, roads, parking, circulation, garbage), one makes his home more comfortable and more disconnected from its environment: double glazing, glazed balconies, generators, air conditioning, always busy cleaning maid).
But after thinking that they can well do withouta government, and manage themselves their little lucky corner (a way of doing ignited by the civil war difficulties), people of Lebanon (but it probably applies to any developing country) seem to get caught back by some elements they cannot manage alone: Traffic jams, water, sea and air pollution, electric cuts that decimate even the best generators, and recently: garbage management.
Suddenly, it seems that the ‘on my own’ and ‘we don’t need a government’ logic, is failing, and that, the only way to whist and the waves of global heat, war refugees, economical crisis and terrorism, is to have a proper State. So, people to use their right to demonstrate and go in the streets.
It’s always a pleasant proof of use of individual rights to see the streets filled with demonstrations, an energy coming from the potential to change for the best. For a few days cars are stopped and people gather on the subject of living together.
At a very, very small scale, I would like to give everyone some tools to be able to save a bit of public space from the cars, and offer, in a leap of trust to other users, a piece of furniture, the occasion of a rest, maybe a talk.
Finding some comfort and welcomeness in the streets is not so common here, as it is mostly forgotten by municipalities.
The basic furnitures I designed and made are very tough and low cost, they are planned to resist time and abuse.
To set some of them in a public space is:
_the gift of a moment of rest to the pedestrian
_a small space lovers to talk (and more if the spot is not too exposed)
_preventing cars to invade
_an act of trust that no one will destroy it or still it. By putting your trust into the users he will make himself up to it.
If, as the recliner (and more the double one), it even proposes to relax up to having a nap in the public space it’ll be in, it will take an act of trust to the level that the one sleeping there will prove his trust in the kindness and non-aggressiveness of the people around.
This is precisely where I would like to get: a city where lovers and nap addicts can set the tone and represent the public space as a desirable environment, worth fighting for, worth keeping clean and accessible.