« Camp » dira-t-on

une cité improvisée

  • Lilia Benbelaïd Architecte
Keywords: art, architecture, corps, espace, camp


What is the function of a temporary shelter when it becomes a permanent part of an environment? What is the architect’s role in an environment where inhabitants are tasked with the construction of their own shelters? These questions summarize the primary motivations for why I came to the refugee camp of Chatila in Beirut. Constructed in 1949 on the edge of the capital, the refugee camp remains connected to the larger urban fabric of the city despite resting on both geographic and social peripheries. Gaining access to the camp is no easy task as those who do not live there are easily identified. In order to maintain a form of accessibility to the camp, I brought with me a pen and paper with the goal of documenting the streets, alleys and architectures. While still an “outsider,” with the medium of sketch I was able to capture scenes of daily life, engaging the environment with a subjective analysis of the different landscapes and interstices that defined the camp. This artistic practice became more than just a subjective practice, initiating the first link between a place and those who inhabit it daily with the hope of awakening semblances of desires and dreams. From the perspective of an architect, these sketches can be seen as a foundation for the preservation and appropriation of a courtyard (inaugurated in 1996) found at the heart of Chatila. This courtyard is a rare exception to the architecture of the camp and has given rise to the Farasheh Project. Here the inhabitants are placed at the center in a space that allows bodies to express themselves and voices to be raised. 

Author Biography

Lilia Benbelaïd, Architecte

Lilia Benbelaïd graduated as an Architect from the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Marseille in June 2018. As part of her final degree, she focused on the subject of refugee camps. This work marks the starting point of a personal approach on this subject. Arriving in Beirut in March 2019, she sketched a series of landscapes in the refugee camp of Chatila, located in the southern suburbs of Beirut. She then initiated the “Farasheh” project that she coordinates with the Children Youth Center, a local school in the camp. This project continues to deal with both spatial and environmental issues, while including the habitants of Chatila in a participatory and collaborative process. Following this, she worked on a new series of sketches on the city of Beirut, titled “In Situ,” that have been exhibited in Beirut, in 2020.

How to Cite
Benbelaïd, L. (2022). « Camp » dira-t-on: une cité improvisée. Manazir Journal, 4, 156–165. https://doi.org/10.36950/manazir.2022.4.9