Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement

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Housing for the Fishermen of Tyre

Hashim Sarkis. Housing for the Fishermen of Tyre

HASHIM SARKIS: My name is Hashim Sarkis. Tyre is situated on the southern shore of Lebanon along the Mediterranean.

GLENN LOWRY: Because of the country’s civil war in the 1970s and 80s, Tyre’s fishermen have seen their livelihoods diminish, leaving many with no choice but to live in cramped housing. In 1998, a group of fishermen formed the Al Baqaa Housing Cooperative, joining forces with Sarkis to build new housing on the outskirts of town. At the heart of the complex sits a public square.

HASHIM SARKIS: This is a community that was displaced from the old city center where it had its common public spaces, alley ways, it had its neighborhood familial spaces, to an area where it was simply agricultural fields, and the neighboring development was still non-existent.

So the public square could give them a common area in the middle where they could gather, where they could meet, where they could play together. The aim from the beginning was to give each house each apartment as much outdoor space as possible.

GLENN LOWRY: Some apartments have rooftop terraces, others have balconies or gardens.

HASHIM SARKIS: I have to say that they are getting used to the idea of living in duplexes, trying to use the roof deck instead of their back courtyard.

But what is quite wonderful about it is the ways that they have invented certain uses for the places that I did not expect. Some of the afternoons, you see them sitting on the balconies working their nets, facing each other.

They have hung their small baskets for basketball in the area where the ficuses are. They have interestingly transformed the project, and slowly, in ways that I did not expect.