Dima Boulad has made it her mission to fill Beirut with greenery. The Lebanese graphic designer started her crusade after a sojourn to the parks of Paris got her thinking: Why are there so few parks and gardens in Beirut, but so many in Paris? She returned home, delved into research and discovered that for each Beirut citizen, there is only 0.8 square meters of public green space. “According to the World Health Organization,” she says at TEDxBeirut, “for a city to be healthy, it needs to have a minimum of nine square meters of green space.” Beirut certainly does not.
Boulad wanted people to take notice of this fact. She devised a plan with fellow designer Nadine Feghali. The two would bombard the city with 0.8-meter large “parks.” They created faux street signs reading, “Enjoy your green space,” and placed them in tiny squares of turf around the city.
The project garnered attention from press and people all over the city. Articles were written. Photos were taken. People reached out wanting to help. Boulad and Feghali knew they had to do something bigger. They decided to create a park — a full-sized park — for just one day.
They set their sights on Sassine Square — a bustling, but gray area of Beirut. They took over the concrete, rolling out meters of turf and inviting anyone interested to enjoy their homemade park.
“More than 400 people came that day,” Boulad says. “… People we knew came by; people we didn’t know came by; there was even one lady who was passing by, stopped to ask what we were doing, to whom we told that was a pop-up park for one day, so she went back home, got her book and joined us … At the end of [the day], we really felt as if we didn’t want to leave.”
“This was our starting point,” Boulad says. “We formed a collective. We believed we could do something. We gathered around the concept of the right to have public green spaces in Beirut.”
The group named themselves the Beirut Green Project and spoke to city officials — who provided a list of all public green spaces. Beirut Green Project transformed this list into a guide, complete with pictures and stories, and published it on their website.
“We have more than 24 public green spaces in Beirut,” Bolaud says. “This number is surprising, it surprised even us … The more we use those spaces, the more we would be asking for our right to have more than 0.8 square meters.”
To learn more, watch Bolaud’s whole talk below:
Why we like this talk:
The speaker, a designer, delivers a passionate talk on how she worked with her community to use art and public action to tackle a municipal problem. She presents the problem — lack of public green space — clearly supports it with data and visuals, and shares a creative, effective way to solve it.