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University of Balamand > News > Archive > ALBA Students Win USF First Prize

ALBA Students Win USF First Prize

Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts of the University of Balamand students recently won the first prize in an international competition on sustainable development organized by the Paris-based NGO Urbanistes Sans Frontières (USF).
Student projects from 36 countries were considered in this competition, entitled “Ecological restructuring and adaptation to climate change of a shantytown.”

Projects from four countries, Lebanon, Armenia, Mali and India, were selected as finalists by a jury composed of both local and international members. The award ceremony was held at USF offices in Paris on January 25. ALBA students took up the first prize while Mali and India came in second and third respectively.
ALBA students worked on a case study project for the Sabra El Horch neighborhood and were supervised by instructors from both the architecture school and the urban planning institute: Ziad Akl, Georges Khayat, Tony Chakar, Jihad Kiame, and Fadi Chiniara. The project’s main focus was on reconnecting the Sabra El Horch slum neighborhood to the adjacent city fabric, minimizing its urban mass, and transforming it into a more sustainable neighborhood.

One of the project’s objectives was to find means to transform the illegal constructions characterizing Sabra’s El Horch neighborhood into sustainable and lawful settlements; the only way to achieve sustainability in such a context, according to the students project.  Financial sustainability was another challenge that was also addressed throughout the project by creating new economical opportunities for the neighborhood residents.

ALBA student participants, Antoun Rizk, Michael Najjar, Cynthia Gereige, Chadi Hijazi were always attended by locals during their site visits and field surveys of Sabra’s streets and alleys. “We were accompanied during our visits by community leaders so as to better relate to the residents of Sabra,” said Rizk.

Sabra El Horch is an impoverished neighborhood characterized by irregular constructions, overpopulation, unstable structures, and very narrow streets.  However, students were impressed by the solidarity of its residents. “It is an urban village where all residents know and help each other,” said Gereige.

During their repeated visits to Sabra, ALBA students were able to take photographs, collect historical data, gather information on Sabra’s urban morphology and its legal and demographic status, and understand its residents’ livelihood. All of these undertakings were important factors in the development of their project.

“ We realized that the residents have something to give as we also tried to understand how they live so we, as architects, can bring solutions for their needs,” said Najjar.

“As architects we learned how to help.  Wrapped up with our lives, we often neglect and ignore the presence of these poor areas,“ said Gereige.
“First, we were not sure about being able to do anything for Sabra, but then throughout our field visits, we became more confident that we can make a change and improve the living conditions of those people by preserving the place that they are most attached to,” said Hijazi.

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