Born and raised in Beirut and trained as an architect, Nina Rahal-Lott is a women with a vision. After witnessing the dire conditions that Palestinian refugees live in across Lebanon, she is single-handedly attempting to setup a voluntary organisation of environmentalists and architects to help in any way possible to improve the environment of the refugees.
The idea is to improve first the living units of the most needy, such as the elderly and the handicapped,” she explains. “That can begin with simple help, such as thermal insulation, or new hinges for the doors, simple water taps, cleaning their streets and planting trees for them…I will be doing my best to provide sustainable solutions with minimum cost. ”
The conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon such as the Badawi camp are notoriously poor with sewage running in the streets and houses of low quality. Nina tells me that she is interested in improving the living spaces for the marginalized in Lebanon starting with the Badawi camp which is home to over 13,000 people and one of the worst camps in Lebanon.
There is an estimated 400,000 registered Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, many of whom are denied social and civil rights as well as access to public social services. She added: “Some people who showed some interest in my idea preferred that I keep the Palestinian camps out of this proposal as this may provoke negative responses in Lebanon, due to the political significance. This actually made me more determined to highlight the cause.”
Although Nina is currently living in France, she insists that there is lots that can be done: “I can provide my architectural skills, therefore any required designs and drawings, 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional if needed too, based on any given measurement drawings, photos & surveys of the current living spaces.”
She is also hoping to get schools in Lebanon involved in architecture and the environment to take part and help come up with sustainable solutions to the refugee camp problems. As she states students need to be directly involved with those they are working with and recognise their humanitarian and environmental responsibilities.
When I ask Nina why she thinks the environmental aspects is central to her vision she replies: “The environment was not part of my own architectural education- we were focusing on the visual aesthetics, functionality of space and even the concept / poetry behind the design, without taking into consideration the impact of all those ideas on the environment.
“I now see our planet burdened by our ill practices, and I am impressed by the contribution of environmental designs on architecture. I do believe there must be an ethical responsibility in all human behaviour towards our environment.”
:: Image via Al Jazeera English/Flickr.
For more on Lebanon and green architecture see: