Beirut Lebanon

The Her City project in Beirut, Lebanon focuses on the two neighbourhoods Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh. The targeted public spaces have been affected by the blast in 2020 and the project aims to regenerate and upgrade the urban spaces. The main focus of the project is three public stairs: St Nicholas, Laziza and Vendome stairs. The project is a joint initiative with UN-Habitat Lebanon, Block by Block Foundation and Catalytic Action.


Category: Public partnership
Location: Beirut, neighbourhoods Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh and three public stairs
Time: April 2021 – ongoing
Partners: UN-Habitat Lebanon, Block by Block Foundation and Catalytic Action
Participants: Local girls from the neighbourhood

Her story


The public spaces in the neighbourhoods of Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh were affected by the Beirut blast in 2020 and the Her City project was initiated at the same time as many other projects and actors were mobilising to respond to the blast. The Her City Beirut project aims at revitalising the stairs to make them more inclusive public spaces for all inhabitants at the same time as having a focus on space and memory.


The project started with a participatory site specific assessment together with 25 participants, a diverse group of youth from the neighbourhoods. After having made observations, collected data and having expressed what they liked and disliked in the public space the next activity consisted of redesigning the space in Minecraft. In addition, an open call was advertised to encourage a wider group of inhabitants to participate in revitalising the spaces by sending in their Minecraft designs for them to be considered in the project. Furthermore, the Her City project in Beirut faced challenges in the sense that the Minecraft workshops had to be conducted safely during the coronavirus pandemic and during an electricity crisis in Beirut.


Her City succeeds at delivering a global model for different contexts, with different communities. Being able to show the constraints and adaptations will help to demonstrate how the model can be applied in new and different contexts. I would recommend creating boxes or highlights to showcase what was done in these constraints.


In the redesigning process in Minecraft the participants suggested adding seating areas for resting, lights, accessibility ramps for people with disabilities and older persons, colourful elements and signages on the stairs as well as shades and handrails. Furthermore, floor games for children and areas for cultural activities such as book corners and exhibitions.


This page feels like a summary, as such I would have expected the outcome and opportunities to cover an idea of what the participants/communities would have wanted (broadly). Maybe this is “a need for a conducive space to rest and supervise children” or “a social hall to engage all persons”, etc. The details should be covered in a separate page for the readers to keenly look through it.


“Today I discovered I have a passion for design. When I grow up, I want to be an architect to design nice spaces in my neighbourhood,” says a 15-year-old participant in the project. The Beirut project has empowered girls through learning how to create design suggestions for public spaces, which helped them realise their potential to contribute to their community. The Her City Project in Beirut targeted the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5, 10, 11, 16 and 17.

Lessons learned

The initiative in Beirut shows that the toolbox works for regeneration projects in urban areas. In addition, the project shows that participation can bridge a gap between different people in neighbourhoods and empower the same inhabitants.


Block 1: Stakeholder engagement

A multi-stakeholder team of girls and professionals to mainstream youth, gender and socio-economic perspectives throughout the entire planning, design and implementation process.

Block 2: City wide assessment 

A city level analysis based on girls and young women’s observations and a list with their top priority spaces to be improved.

Block 3: Site specific assessment

Collecting quantitative and qualitative data by girls and young women on the state of the space that is considered a top priority for improvement.

Block 4: Analysing challenges

A joint vision for the space based on a detailed analysis of the girls’ needs and current privileges in the space.

Block 5: Designing ideas

A rough design in Minecraft of the new space made by the girls and professionals based on the solutions identified throughout the process.

Block 6: Recommendations

A joint action plan for the space where girls and professionals negotiate ways forward for implementation and potential impact of the project.

Block 7: Action plans

Detailed plans collaboratively developed by the girls and professionals for the construction phase including cost estimations and maintenance plans.

Block 8: Sharing results 

Approval to move forward and start construction from decision-makers and community and spreading of knowledge gained throughout the project.

Block 9: Implementation and follow-up

An evaluation of the process, follow up on construction by the girls and a final report on the results of the entire project with a mainstreaming strategy to scale up similar initiatives.

Related SDGs








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Her City is a joint urban development initiative by UN-Habitat (the United Nations Human Settlements Programme) and the independent think tank Global Utmaning (Global Challenge).