Geneina Project

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Geneina Team Project Concept: Nevine Akl and Kareem Ibrahim (Takween ICD), Renet Korthals Altes (Make Space for Play!) Project Manager: Mona Farouk Site Manager: Mohamed Abdel-Sattar Site Engineer: Ismail Mounir Design Team: Youssef Halim, Mahmoud El-Sawy, Heba Shama, Ghada Sherif Consultants: Dr. El-Saady Badawy, Ahmad Fathy, Renet Korthals Altes, Ahmad El-Shazly, Workshops Coordinator: Mona Mannoun Workshop Moderators: Ahmad Borham, Ahmad Abdel-Gawad, Abdel-Rahman Kashmiry, Renet Korthals Altes Community Mobilization: Ibrahim Mohamed Abdel-Wahid Interns: Mohamed Abou-Sira, Ahmad Jamal Site Workers: Adham Abdel-Zaher, Mohamed Rabie, Abdel-Latif Ragab, Sayyed Ragab, Mohamed Shoukry, Mohamed, Abdel-Hamid, Hamada Authors Takween Integrated Community Development: Lamia Ayman, Mona Farouk, Mona Mannoun, Ragya El-Masry, Noha Refaat, Heba Shama, Ghada Sherif Make Space for Play!: Renet Korthals Altes Thanks To Local community children of Masaken Othman Workshops Participants: Aya Abdel-Rahim, Hala Abou-Taleb, Mohamed Aliaa Aly, Amin, Omar Amin, Shady Ashraf, Lamia Ayman, Rawda Aziz, Nouran Azouz, Nouran Badr El-Din, Youmna El-Farahat, Martha Gendy, Nourhan Gheriany, Heba Fathy, Ahmad Hamid, Faiza Hamid, Mohamed Haridy, Safy Hassan, Tarek Hassan, Heba Hosny, Mohamed El-Hawary, Ahmad Kamel, Medhat Kazem, Mostafa Khattab, Omar El-Kousy, Ahmad Lamloum, Maggie Maggar, Nedaa Mahboub, Dina El-Mahdy, Yasmine Maher, Ragya El-Masry, Menna Metwally, Lobna Mitkees, Gehad Mohamed, Yousra Radwan, Noha Refaat, Ismail Seleit, Ahmad Turk, Mina Wardakhan, Radwa Zidan Art and Culture Activities: Hekayat min Baladna Clowns Sans Frontières (France) and Outa Hamra (Egypt) Coloring a Grey City Photo credits Photographers: Rehab Sobhy, Hybrid Design Takween Integrated Community Development: Nevine Akl, Lamia Ayman, Mona Farouk, Youssef Halim, Noha Refaat, Mona Mannoun, Ragya El-Masry, Ismail Mounir, Heba Shama Graphic Designer Hybrid Design

Project Owner and Main Partner 6th of October City Administration

Initiated and Supported by UNHCR

Funding Agencies Kuwait Responds (Geneina Design and Implementation) German Cooperation (‘Geneina in Action’ Workshops)

Concept and Implementation Takween Integrated Community Development Make Space for Play! Renet Korthals Altes

Project Partners Shaarawy Foundation for Development CARE Egypt











This Project has been identified, initiated and supported by UNHCR community support programmes (CSPs) which are urban development projects that target host and refugee communities in refugee-hosting areas and in an area-based approach. One of the strategic objectives of CSPs is to foster community meeting nodes in order to create channels of interaction and foster community cohesion across different refugee hosting areas in Egypt and to work on public services and places of congregation.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Takween Integrated Community Development, Cairo, Egypt. Š All rights are reserved for Takween Integrated Community Development



THE CONTEXT Masaken Al-Awla Bil Ri`aya -popularly known as ‘Masaken Othman’- is a public housing project remotely located on the fringes of 6th of October City to the west of the Greater Cairo Region (GCR). The area was developed by the Government of Egypt (GoE) for families most in need of immediate care, primarily relocated from informal areas in the GCR due to the unsafe conditions in their original neighborhoods. However, according to official reports, Masaken Othman suffers from lack of: nearby work opportunities, basic services, access to public transportation and safe/high-quality public open spaces.

The situation -already difficult for relocated Egyptian familieswas aggravated with Syrian and Sudanese refugee families moving to the area due to its affordable rents and thanks to the efforts of some local NGOs. As a result, Egyptian, Syrian and Sudanese families are dealing with challenging living conditions that call for the intervention of various development agencies. Research shows that women and children -Egyptian, Syrian and Sudanese- suffer the most from the area’s deteriorated social infrastructure and its lack of security, especially in the public open spaces. Therefore, safe and high-quality public open spaces -specially serving the needs of women and children- are highly needed as expressed by local and refugee communities but simply, such spaces do not exist. This point is crucial since existing recreational and educational facilities available to the children of Masaken Othman are located outside of the area, prompting them to cross the dangerous highway, Al Wahat Road, to get to the aforementioned destinations – resulting in severe threats to the children’s safety.


THE PROJECT The Geneina project idea was developed by Takween Integrated Community Development (Takween ICD) in partnership with Make Space for Play! (Architect Renet Korthals Altes).The project was designed and implemented between mid-March 2014 and December 2014. The project responds to one of the important needs identified by UNHCR in Masaken Othman; the need for safe and friendly public open spaces for children that encompass basic recreational activities and allows for mothers and young girls to gather and congregate. The project targets this crucial need shared by Egyptian, Syrian and Sudanese families living in the area. Geneina creates a safe and friendly public open space inside Masaken Othman by providing seating, paving, vegetation and playing elements in an empty plot of land in the area’s Public Service Center. The project turns this empty plot into a community gathering node and a sustainable investment which will benefit the entire community. The Geneina project complements the already ongoing efforts in the area especially by the GoE, UNHCR, Shaarawy Foundation, Care Egypt, and other entities aiming at improving the living conditions of all Masaken Othman’s residents, regardless of their backgrounds. By its establishment, Geneina aims to contribute to the peaceful co-existence, social cohesion, integration and mutual acceptance among the different residents of the area, whether Egyptian families from different backgrounds or Syrian and Sudanese refugees. By engaging members of these different communities in the planning, design and implementation of the Geneina project, the aim is -with other stakeholders in the area- to embark on an inclusive development process to create an inviting public space that is accessible to all.


THE GENEINA GUIDING PRINCIPLES The purpose of the Geneina project is to emphasize the development process rather than focus on the implemented outcome only. The hope is that the inclusive design process that was carried out in this project creates a positive ripple effect and is incorporated in future endeavors in the area. However, achieving such a positive impact requires adequate management of the current project from here on. Therefore, and despite the importance of the physical product, it was ensured from the start of the project that the Geneina process would aim to achieve the following guiding principles:

PARTICIPATION AS AN EMPOWERING AND INCLUSIVE PROCESS Participation of local residents from different genders, age groups, and backgrounds (Egyptians, Syrians and Sudanese) and having their voices heard were core elements of the Geneina process. Local residents played a key role in all stages of the Geneina process: site identification, project planning, project design and implementation. Engaging local residents -especially women and children- in the decision-making process throughout the project was the primary tool to: i) better understand the context; ii) ensure that Geneina will best serve the needs of its diverse users; iii) build the capacity of the local stakeholders and youth to maintain and operate the site; and iv) build among the area’s residents a higher sense of ownership – all contributing to the future sustainability of the project.

THE RIGHT TO PLAY Where can children play freely and safely in the city? The privileged children in Egypt play at their clubs, but where can the vast majority of children play? Playing is an underestimated need of children in urban environments. Free and active play benefits physical health, cognitive development, emotional wellbeing and social development. In areas with a mixed population, integration is more likely if it offers opportunities to meet and play. A more child friendly public space would not only result in safe places for children to play and meet, it would also stimulate a more active lifestyle. Inclusion of children’s needs in public space, contributes to the empowerment of children, their citizen participation and sense of belonging to their city.

UP-CYCLING AND ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVITY How can one turn waste materials and available local resources into engaging playing elements and enjoyable landscape features? The Geneina project up-cycles waste materials such as used car tires and old car springs into building blocks for affordable and children friendly playing elements that can be installed in the public space. The project uses environmentally friendly materials such as clay, sand and the ‘rammed earth’ construction technique to build landscape features that have minimal environmental impact on the project site and its surroundings. Finally, the project adopts a sensitive vegetation approach where diverse species of trees (including fruit trees) are planted in carefully selected locations to reduce the need for irrigation water and regular maintenance.





From the start, several introductory meetings were conducted with the local stakeholders to introduce the project concept and familiarize with the area. Officially, a meeting with the 6th of October City Administration (CA) -with support from UNHCR- was arranged to present the project and obtain the necessary approvals. With the support of the Shaarawy Foundation for Development (SFD) –the active NGO based in the area- several meetings took place with Egyptian and Syrian community members. The meetings also included members from the Local Community Committee established in the area with the help of CARE Egypt and SFD. In addition to the organized meetings, the project team reached out to more residents –especially Syrian families with limited access to public space- through home visits, guided walks and informal chats in different sub-areas. The aim of this effort was to: i) introduce the project idea to the diverse audience of the area, ii) better understand the needs of the residents, the prevailing problems in the area, as well as its potentials; and iii) obtain the residents’ view of the project and discuss its possible location. Through this familiarization process it was evident that there is a need for such public open space, especially among women and children. Interactions with elderly residents revealed the area’s lack of basic services such as education and health facilities, and lack of access to job opportunities and public transportation. However, the efforts of other development partners in the area -such as UNHCR and SFD- were addressing these other important needs.


ASSESSMENT OF THE EXISTING CONDITIONS The project team carried out two types of assessments to better understand the existing conditions of the area: First, a quick Social Assessment through a questionnaire focusing on the use of the public open space in the area, local recreation opportunities, means of social interaction among residents, residents’ expectations about the proposed public open space, etc. The Social Assessment addressed a diverse group of residents based on their age, gender, and nationality to ensure an inclusive planning process. Some sections of the questionnaire were directed to different community groups to better understand some sensitive matters such as safety in the public space and mutual acceptance. Second, a Physical Assessment of the conditions of the public open space in the area through photographic documentation, site surveys, and sketches. The team gave special attention to the different sites identified by the residents where the project could be potentially implemented. The assessment covered the pros and cons of the potential project sites, as well as their surroundings in terms of accessibility, safety and security, environmental conditions (shading, wind, etc.), existing uses, and existing infrastructure. With the completion of these assessments, two potential alternative sites were identified for the implementation of the Geneina project. Alternative Site I was an in-between public open space located among a group of residential blocks. This public open space is overlooking the Arba`een Street - currently the main street in the area with a high concentration of commercial and social activities. Alternative Site II was a vacant plot of land located at the corner of one of the area’s Public Service Centers which was still under development.


ART PERFORMANCES IN THE PUBLIC OPEN SPACE At an early stage of the project, the team utilized art performances in the public open space as an innovative strategy to achieve three main objectives: Firstly, to mobilize the local community, to introduce the project idea to a wider audience, and to encourage the residents to perceive the potential of the public open space as an inclusive domain where they can coexist and interact peacefully, and where they can develop a communal sense of ownership. Secondly, to observe more closely and critically how local residents groups interact and respond to public events in the open space. This step was specifically important to understand potential conflicts among different groups, power structures in the public open space, and potential attempts of domination and control of the public space by some residents groups in the area. And thirdly, to gain local residents’ trust -especially women and children- though tangible initiatives that address their needs and demonstrate the team’s commitment to implement the proposed project.

In line with this strategy, the project team organized two public events and art performances in two carefully selected potential sites/public open spaces in the area. The first event was a puppet show by Hekayat min Baladna team. This event took place on May 2014 in Alternative Site I. The puppet show addressed issues of diversity and coexistence; and was well received by the area’s children. The event was attended by almost 350 residents from different age groups and backgrounds. The second event took place on June 2014 in celebration of the World Refugee Day. The event included street performances by Clowns Sans Frontières (France)/Outa Hamra (Egypt) in addition to another puppet show by Hekayat min Baladna team. This event took place in front of Alternative Site II. This event included a more diverse age group (mostly Egyptians), and it was difficult to control especially with the existence of a large number of teenagers. This event was attended by more than 500 residents.

Despite the difficulties faced in the organization of these public events -which were not originally included in the initial project plan- they were a truly valuable opportunity for the project team to better understand the potential conflicts and attempts of domination and control that might arise in the area’s public open space, and the potential conflicts between different age groups.


SITE SELECTION Based on the different community consultations, assessments and experiments with public events in the public open space, the project team was able to identify the most suitable site for the implementation of the Geneina project. The team selected Alternative Site II which was a vacant plot of land with a total area of 1,200 square meters located in one of the Public Service Centers of Masaken Othman. Eventually, the Public Service Centers -located among the residential blocks of the area- are supposed to host the area’s public facilities such as schools, health centers, mosques, etc. This site has been selected given its central location and ease of access by different residents of the area. The selection was also in line with the preference of the local residents who considered this alternative less likely to be taken over by other residents groups since Alternative Site II is located among other public facilities, not among residential blocks as in the case of Alternative Site I. Finally, Alternative Site II had two other advantages: its proximity to the area’s public school (currently under development) which will better serve the area’s children; and the availability of vacant public land surrounding the site, allowing for growth and integration with other future activities. To this effect -and with the support of UNHCR- the team started the negotiation process with the City Administration and the New Urban Communities Authority to allocate the selected site for the proposed project. This process took a bit of time given the unconventional institutional structure of the project where different non-governmental entities are collaborating with the city administration to develop a public facility on a publically owned land. Eventually, the City Administration approved the project given that no permanent structures would be built on site. At this point, the team started surveying the site in preparation for the design process.


Alternative Site I

Alternative Site II



PARTICIPATORY DESIGN SESSIONS The participatory design sessions were aimed at engaging the local residents (Egyptians and Syrians) through encouraging their contribution to the design process. This was specifically important, not only to ensure that their needs are adequately addressed, but more importantly to: i) establish a dialogue among Egyptian and Syrian families who had to collaborate together to develop design solutions for the site; and ii) promote a higher sense of ownership among the residents towards the public open space and the entire Geneina process. Along these lines, the team conducted two participatory design sessions. The first session targeted children with a special focus on designing different playing elements. While the second session targeted women with a special focus on designing quiet, comfortable and green seating areas.

Children’s Participatory Design Session Participants: 16 Syrian and 12 Egyptian children including boys and girls The team started this session with introducing the project and showing the children -through slideshow presentationpictures of various play elements. During this presentation the team asked the children to express their opinions and impressions about these pictures.


Following the presentation, the team divided the children into two groups -a group of boys and a group of girls. The team asked each group to do two things: first, to draw on paper their ideas and proposals for play elements that they would like to have in the public open space; and second, to build physical models and miniature versions of these play elements using simple materials such as clay, colored pins, toothpicks, etc. These miniature versions were later on placed in a physical model representing the entire project site. As expected, the outcomes and elements produced by different children varied according to gender, nationality and age groups. The different outcomes of this session are illustrated on the following page.


Drawing Samples and models of Play Elements

Climbing wall- slide- water



Water Feature


GIRLS Drawing Samples and models of Play Elements

Swing- shading element


Seating for mothers

Swing with chain

Children slide

The outcomes of this session were very rich and full of ideas and suggestions from the children’s side. Moreover, the session was a very good opportunity for the team to test and observe how Egyptian and Syrian children interact together. During the session, the team noticed that some elements were repeated several times since some children were copying from each other. However, the team also noticed some differences depending on the children’s backgrounds. Syrian children were repeatedly drawing trees and green areas, even green hills, recalling Syrian landscape in contrast with the harsh desert environment of the Masaken Othman area. On another note, the majority of Syrian children -regardless of their gender or age group- emphasized the importance of having a space dedicated for their mothers in the site so their mothers can be in their proximity to supervise and protect them. On the contrary, when it came to Egyptian children, only the very young expressed this need. This observation was in line with an earlier finding that arose through the social assessment. During the assessment Syrian mothers stated that they do not allow their children to play outdoors alone because of the widespread violence and bullying activities in the area - especially against young boys, and against girls in general.



Women’s Participatory Design Session: Participants: 8 Syrian and 5 Egyptian women Similar to the children’s session, the team started this session by introducing the project, presenting some sample pictures of public open spaces and recreational areas, and presenting the outcomes of the children’s session. The presentation was followed by an open discussion so women could express their views and ideas regarding the design features of Geneina. Most participants expressed their need for trees and greenery, shading elements, seating areas, lighting fixtures, and a space for other activities such as community cultural events and workshops. Later on, the team asked the participants to build physical models for the different elements and features they would like to have in Geneina. This exercise focused on creating seating areas, shading elements and picnic tables. The participants’ preference was to create benches with a back for better comfort. Similar to the children’s session, the team noticed some differences in the outcomes and preferences of different participants based on their nationality.

Compared to Egyptian participants, Syrian participants were more creative and able to produce diverse recreational elements (picnic tables, shading elements, etc.). This can be attributed to the fact that during the social assessment, many Syrian respondents referred to the vast green areas and recreational spaces they used to have in Syria. On the contrary, Egyptian women participating in the session could not relate or refer to public open spaces other than huge amusement parks or green flat lawns used for family gatherings.

Additionally, Syrian participants envisioned spaces for group family gatherings in Geneina in the direct vicinity of the playing areas so they can monitor their children while playing. This was not a priority for Egyptian participants. This can be attributed to the relatively higher sense of security in the area among Egyptian participants, compared to the refugee situation and limited access to the public open space among Syrian participants. During the social assessment, it was evident the Egyptian participants (including women) had no real concerns about allowing their children to play in the public open space without much supervision, contrary to Syrian participants. It is important here to note that some Syrian women used to go out in the area either in groups, or accompanied by their husbands or male members of the family. Following the completion of the previous exercise, the participating women were asked to list -from their view- the potential problems or threats that might arise following the implementation of the project and the means to overcome them. The main points that the participants raised during this discussion are as follows:


Suggested solutions Placing various play elements for young children and toddlers in the site will make the place less interesting for men or teenagers.

Groups of men or teenagers entering the space and harassing women Surrounding the site with a fence and a gate for entrance.

Placing a sign on the site stating that it is a “families only� space. Conflicts or fights between children

Replicating some of the popular play elements to reduce potential conflicts among children.

Lack of public lighting

Ensuring that the site is connected to an operating public electricity network.

Considering safety as a main aspect in the The physical safety of some play eledesign of play elements, and the site in ments (such as high climbing walls) general.


PRELIMINARY DESIGN AND ITS DEVELOPMENT The preliminary design concept envisioned Geneina as part of a larger recreational complex incorporating a football pitch (to be constructed through a separate project) serving the youth of the area. This idea was inspired by the residents’ perception of the project where the majority preferred a distinction between public spaces/facilities allocated for women and children on the one hand, and for men and teenagers on the other. In the preliminary design concept, Geneina and the football pitch shared a staggered structure serving as a stepped seating area for both spaces, while physically separating them.

Zone A: Seating area for women and girls Zone B: Toddlers area surrounded by seats for mothers Zone C: Repetitive movement play-area especially for girls Zone D: Challenge zone for boys includes climbing wall, maze walls Zone E: A mixed-use area includes theater, seats, shading area

However, the majority of the participants opposed this idea and requested the location of a fence surrounding the entire site for safety reasons; creating a controlled environment to protect women and children and to avoid potential harassment. The design team reached a compromise with the participants to surround the site with a playground mesh fence and plantations to; thus allowing for visual connectivity with the surrounding context necessary for the safety of Geneina users. This idea was accepted by the participants since it achieves their required level of security in the site, while avoiding visual obstruction. Later on, the proposed staggered structure separating Geneina from the proposed football pitch was replaced by a playground mesh fence since the City Administration did not permit the construction of permanent massive structures.


The governing concept of the preliminary design was to establish 5 distinctive zones within the Geneina plot. Three different playing areas were designed to address the children’s different age groups, incorporating various types of play elements (challenging elements, elements incorporating repetitive movement, and elements appropriate for toddlers’). The two other zones were designed to provide diverse seating options in addition to a stepped seating area that utilized the difference of existing ground levels and provided a place for public events and performances. These different zones were connected to one another by a paved pathway flowing smoothly through the site. The pathway was designed to lead to two proposed entry points overlooking the bordering streets, while also connecting it to adjacent plots of land allowing for potential growth and connectivity. For factors such as improved visibility, accessibility and the need for direct supervision, the design team placed the toddlers’ area in close proximity to the two main entrances to allow for direct supervision from their mothers. The adjacent zone was designed for repetitive movement elements that are generally more appealing to girls and the elements that were most interesting and appealing to all children, such as swings, were grouped in a separate zone. Another major factor in shaping the design was the site’s existing topography; instead of an intrusive intervention that would change the features of the site, the design team incorporated the differences in ground levels to accentuate the proposed design. They were used to: i) build the children slides; ii) reduce the height of some structures on site (the maze) improving the overall visibility of the area; and iii) build stepped seating areas for the theater/public performance zone.


Furthermore, different seating options were placed in different locations around the site; the design team surrounded the toddlers’ area by a low-height thick border of masonry that could simultaneously be used as a play element and a seating area, while allowing unobstructed visibility of this zone. In addition, individual benches were introduced parallel to the above mentioned masonry border to allow a semi-detached seating option for women who preferred to sit closer to the toddler’s area without interrupting the toddlers’ playing activities. Finally a separate seating zone located in a relatively quiet corner of the site was also introduced to serve the area’s families who wanted to enjoy Geneina themselves. Despite the fact that the design details changed throughout the later design and implementation stages, the core elements of the preliminary design concept remained intact. The modifications introduced in later stages were more related to the choice of materials, design of the individual playing elements, and the use of more realistic and low-cost design features that respond to the conditions of the local context.

DESIGN OF PLAY ELEMENTS The main philosophy governing the design of the proposed play elements was to inspire the local residents by showing them that it is possible to construct fun and engaging play elements in the public open space that are still durable and affordable. Therefore, painted car tires were used to construct play elements that are not only durable and affordable, but also simple to construct and safe for children use. Ultimately, this practice will allow the area’s residents and children to construct their own play elements in the Geneina or in other locations of the area easily, increasing their sense of ownership towards the project and the concept of the right to play in general. Geneina play elements were mainly inspired by the children themselves through the participatory design sessions conducted. Generally, boys demonstrated more interest in challenging games such as climbing walls, jumping platforms and mazes. On the other hand, girls were interested in swings, seesaws and house-like elements. Slides, swings, greenery and water features were commonly desired by both genders.


The proposed design aimed at responding directly to these needs. The play elements included three different types: challenging play elements, repetitive movement play elements, and toddlers’ play elements. The challenging play elements zone included physically challenging elements such as climbing walls, mazes, and large group-slides. The repetitive movement play elements zone included swings, balancing bars, tumbling bars and opportunities for social play. Most elements were designed to provide the opportunity for a large number of children to play simultaneously. As mentioned earlier, a low-height masonry wall was designed to surround the toddlers’ zone and to act as a buffer to provide the toddlers with a contained safe zone separate from the older and more active children. Meanwhile, this wall can also be used as a seating element for mothers’ supervision. The wall also incorporated play elements such as the house-like and bus-like play elements to host creative play options. These creative play variations incorporated arrangements of tires, which were emphasized by the painting of different scenes on the bordering wall. Inside the low-height wall periphery, the design also included a tire caterpillar game, a platform with a small slide, and an elevated bouncing truck tire element to provide group playing opportunities.


FEEDBACK SESSIONS Following the completion of the preliminary design, the team conducted two sessions with the local residents (one with adults and another one with children) to obtain their feedback. For this specific purpose the team had produced a physical model for the site in addition to a 3D computer-generated model to facilitate the visual communication process with the local residents. During these two sessions, residents (Egyptian and Syrians, young and adults, etc.) were able to give their feedback and recommendations and to express their concerns regarding the design and future management and maintenance scenarios for Geneina. In general, the residents were satisfied with the design of Geneina since the majority of their needs and concerns were addressed through the initial proposed designand the improved understanding of the area and its conditions by the design team. The outcome of these sessions is summarized in the following table:

Adults’ Comments Item


Design Response


More trees and green surfaces were incorporated; the seating area was redesigned to be covered with grass instead of sand.

More trees and green spaces. Seating Area

Stage Area

A water feature was difficult to include in the design as it requires a high amount of maintenance and its cleanliness and proper use cannot be guaranteed.

A water feature e.g. fountain. Flowers that need minimal care e.g. Jasmine. An addition of Jasmine, Gazania, and Duranta flowers were placed on the periphShading devices using ery of the seating area. colored plastic sheets. sign was increased to provide efficient shading as opposed to introducing shading devices. The stage area was designed to accomIncrease the size of the modate approx. 150-180 children abased stage. on the expected expected use patterns.



Add Children’s More swings. Play Area Monkey-bars for older children. General Remarks

Add More greenery. Toilet facilities. Security guard and check point. Cafeteria or Kiosk on site to provide snacks for the children, the profit of which could be used to fund the maintenance of Geneina. Drinking fountain.

Design Response The number of swings could only be doubled due to their large spatial and safety requirements. Monkey bars were added to the design. The number of green surfaces and trees were increased. Toilet facilities could not be added to the design due to their high construction cost and need for constant maintenance which was not guaranteed due to the unclear management plan. Without the required upkeep, the toilets could quickly turn into a health hazard or an area used for illegitimate activities. Also, the residential buildings were in close proximity to the playground which decreased the need for their addition on site. The design aimed to locate a semi-shaded space near the main entrance where a guard could secure the area and store maintenance tools. During the construction of the space, City Administration officials prohibited its continuation, preventing the implementation of built structures in fear of potential future expansion. Alternatively, the area was left unbuilt, to be developed by future management individuals into a light structure or kiosk that could also sell snacks for the users. Due to concerns regarding hygiene, maintenance and construction, a drinking or aesthetic fountain was not added.



Comments Introduce tickets to control visitors’ entry e.g. EGP 0.50 per person. Enforce working hours of the area from 07:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Management and Maintenance

Design Response All these suggestions were taken into consideration while drafting the Management Plan to be handed over to the local NGO and other entities responsible for the management and maintenance of Geneina post the implementation phase.

Allow the entrance of children up to the age of 12 with their mothers to pre- The design aimed to serve and atvent potential issues arising tract women, families and children from older age groups’ entry. below the age of 12 while providAssign two security guards; ing an alternate space, the adjacent football pitch, to serve the one to monitor the interolder age groups. This method was ernal play areas and the utilized as an indirect method to other to control entry into control the users entering Geneina Geneina. and prevent potential issues from Allocate a person for clean- arising with the entry of older age ing, gardening and maintegroups. nance purposes.

Children Comments Item


Add Children’s Play Area

Hop-on train ride Bouncy house or Trampoline Additional Swings

Design Response Spatial and financial limitations, durability, and the aim to have more group playing elements were the main reasons not to provide elements that require high maintenance or provide single-play opportunities. Out of fear of increased violence and overcrowding of the swings area, and based on the apparent popularity of swings, their quantity was doubled and the space allocated for their use increased to maintain safety standards.


Stage Area

General Remarks


Design Response

Grass cover was provided in the space between the stage and the stepped seats, and two trees were planted at the corners to provide The stage area lacks green shade. However, it was not possispaces. ble to further increase grass cover since the space is limited and it was important to build a small platform to act as a stage. Assigning a guard to manage and maintain Geneina was proposed in the Management Plan. The space is designed to attract families, but it is challenging to prevent There should be a police children from entering if they are on officer nearby. their own since some families accept Children should not be sending their children to play alone in admitted without a parent/ Geneina for extended hours. guardian. Providing an ambulance or clinic is out of the project’s scope. But it is A nearby ambulance or proposed to equip the site with a clinic should be provided. first-aid kit, and the Geneina personnel with first-aid training . Also, there A cafeteria or kiosk should is a nearby health unit, which is exbe provided on site. pected to operate in the near future. The idea of the kiosk is suggested in the Management Plan, but it will be left up to the entity in charge of managing the site to implement it.

During the workshop, it was also important to involve the participants in the choice of a name for the project. The team took into consideration all their suggestions and noticed the children’s referral to the space as “al-Geneina’; so decided “Geneina” was the most appropriate choice. The team also noticed that the children mainly focused on increasing the number of play elements, and adding new ones to the site, while the adults focused on management and maintenance aspects instead; addressing their concerns regarding privacy, safety and ownership of the space.


FINALIZING THE DESIGN The design process was finalized based on two major inputs: i) the feedback obtained from the area’s residents and children; and ii) the actual ground levels of the site based on the site topographic survey. As a result of these inputs, more benches were added to the site, providing more seating options. The benches were constructed using hollow blocks to ensure their durability and sustainment in the park (cannot be removed off site). The design process was finalized based on two major inputs: i) the feedback obtained from the area’s residents and children; The number and types of ground proposed treesoftothe besite planted and ii) the actual levels basedononsite the site was alsotopographic increased. This wasAsspecifically only more for benches survey. a result ofdone, thesenot inputs, beautification purposes, butsite, alsoproviding to introduce numberoptions. of di- The were added to the morea seating verse species of fruit shading trees the area for to theensure first their benches wereand constructed using to hollow blocks time. The distribution these treesinwas durability and of sustainment the well parkstudied (cannottobeplay removed off differentsite). roles and functions such as shading and producing nice odors, especially in the proximity of the seating areas. The number and types of proposed trees to be planted on site The team also responded toThis the children’s comments regards was also increased. was specifically done,innot only for to increasing the number of play but elements. addition,a the beautification purposes, also to Inintroduce number of disafety zones eachand play element were revis-for the first versesurrounding species of fruit shading trees toalso the area ited to ensure the distribution safety of theofsite following thewell increase in to play time. The these trees was studied number different of play elements. of the play had producing to be roles andSome functions such aselements shading and eliminated relocated to achieve requiredoffactor of safety. niceorodors, especially in thethe proximity the seating areas.


Based on theteam above, team produced a full set of detailed in regards The alsothe responded to the children’s comments design and construction forplay the elements. different landscape to increasing thedrawings number of In addition, the and playsafety elements. design refinement zonesThis surrounding each playprocess elementalso werecontinalso revisued during implementation on observing the itedthe to ensure the safetyphase of thebased site following the increase in children’snumber interaction with the different elements on site. had to be of play elements. Someplay of the play elements Therefore, children or of relocated the area were the main of factor inspi- of safety. eliminated to achieve thesource required ration for the entire process throughout the design and implementation phases. Based on the above, the team produced a full set of detailed design and construction drawings for the different landscape and play elements. This design refinement process also continued during the implementation phase based on observing the children’s interaction with the different play elements on site. Therefore, children of the area were the main source of inspiration for the entire process throughout the design and implementation phases.






‘GENEINA IN ACTION’ WORKSHOPS Instead of following a conventional construction approach through implementing site works via contractors, the project team decided to turn the implementation of the Geneina construction activities into an open-source effort. This ‘opensource’ approach aims at integrating the local residents, youth of the area, young professionals and students of architecture in the implementation process to build their capacity in design and give them the tools for implementing such projects. The process aimed at building the capacity of these various groups and individuals in the areas of alternative building techniques, use of recycled materials, and construction and maintenance of low-cost play elements in the public open space, in particular. The process also encouraged participants from outside of Masaken Othman (students and young professionals) to contribute to the realization of the project, and to adopt the Geneina process, replicate it in other areas and – in turn – pass this knowhow along to other communities. To this effect, the team organized a series of 3 workshops during the implementation phase: • Workshop I: Tires Up-Cycling • Workshop II: Low-Tech Construction • Workshop III: Coloring Geneina

WORKSHOPS ANNOUNCEMENT AND PARTICIPANTS’ SELECTION PROCESS The team announced the workshops through Takween’s social media platforms requesting the participation of students from architectural schools and young professionals from relevant multidisciplinary backgrounds, allowing interested candidates to submit their applications. For the first two workshops, selection and screening of the applicants was based on the following criteria: i) if the applicant’s field of study or work is relevant to the workshop topic; ii) if the applicant has previous experience in dealing with children or participatory design projects; iii) if the applicant had joined previous workshops

related to low-tech construction, children activities, participatory design projects or other related workshops; and iv) if the applicant has experience in site construction activities. For the third workshop, Coloring Geneina, a group of students from the Faculty of Fine Arts called Coloring a Grey City were outsourced for the task, producing designs in collaboration with Takween ICD and governing the implementation process on site. Volunteers were called out for (many of which were participants of the previous workshops) to help in the painting process.

WORKSHOP I: TIRES UP-CYCLING Objectives and Preparation The objective of this workshop was to build the participants’ capacity in designing and constructing DIY outdoor play elements using old car tires. The children of Masaken Othman participated with the team in painting the tires, while some older children and youth of the area participated in assembling and installing the tires on site. The workshop included 21 participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds, in addition to local participants from the area. The workshop was moderated by three experts: Ahmad Borham, Renet Korthals Altes and Abdel-Rahman Kashmiry. The project team and the three experts worked together to prepare the workshop. They also worked together to provide the participants with handouts and how-to manuals illustrating the technical drawings of the play elements, fixing and assembling details, installation methods, etc. Originally, the workshop was planned to design and implement five play elements in Geneina (tires pyramid, caterpillar, balancing bar, tire path and island, and the bus-like element). The workshop also aimed at designing and implementing a small satellite play element in one of the in-between spaces among the residential blocks as an example for a free children play area that can be replicated in other parts of the neighborhood. Workshop Activities The duration of the workshop was five days. On the first day, the team introduced the Geneina process to the participants. The team followed this presentation by a lecture on the importance of free play, general theory of play, informal play spaces and examples of similar projects. The remaining four days where all dedicated to design and implementation activities.


Instead of designing and implementing five play elements as planned, the team and the participants managed to complete nine play elements in total in Geneina. In regards to the satellite play area in the residential blocks, the project team asked the children to choose an area where they are used to play to install some simple play elements. The children took the workshop participants for a tour in the area to identify a suitable in-between space. The groups initially selected five potential spots for the satellite play area. The selected site was chosen by the group given its sloped nature that is interesting in play and presents an element of challenge. In addition, the site was selected based on the acceptance of the surrounding residents to install the satellite play area. The guidelines communicated to the participants for the design and implementation of this satellite play area was to design simple and multi-functional play elements that can be implemented quickly in the area. Establishing the satellite play area during the workshop had two objectives: firstly, to engage the participants and the children in designing and implementing quick and simple free playing elements; and secondly, to assess the children’s and the surrounding residents’ reaction towards this initiative. The implementation of the satellite play area was successfully completed and well received by the residents.


WORKSHOP II: LOW-TECH CONSTRUCTION Objectives and Preparation The objective of this workshop was to build the participants’ capacity in implementing low-tech and durable construction techniques using local materials. The workshop focused on training the participants on the design and implementation aspects of the ‘rammed earth’ building technique through the construction of the walls of the maze – one of the main play elements in Geneina. The team organized the workshop with the help of Ahmad Abdel-Gawad – a technical consultant with hands-on experience in the field of sustainable building technologies. This workshop was attended by 14 participants from different backgrounds. The foundations of the maze walls were constructed on site prior to the commencement of the workshop. Workshop Activities The duration of the workshop was four days. The Consultant started the workshop by giving an overview of the history of the rammed earth technique, behavior and properties of different types of soil, and different simple tests that can be imple-

mented on site to achieve the most appropriate soil mix for the construction activities. These tests where implemented on soils obtained from nearby construction sites. The Consultant and the participants made several trials to improve the soil mixture until they reached a suitable mix for implementation. The target of this workshop was to design and build four rammed earth walls with circular openings to create a maze for the children. In addition, the workshop also targeted the construction of an experimental bench in the seating area. The team divided the participants into three groups: i) a group to prepare the soil mixture; ii) a group to fix the formwork; and iii) a group to ram the soil into the formwork. The three groups were periodically exchanging roles on a job rotation scheme to each acquire knowledge on the different steps of this process. During the entire duration of the workshop, participants were able to finish only one and a half walls in addition to the bench, out of the four planned walls. The construction of the remaining walls continued after the workshop and took 3 additional days, with four workers assigned to finish them. Children from the area were present during the workshop and participated in some activities such as preparing and mixing the soil. They were excited to see the work progressing in Geneina, and that the play elements are close to completion. They were proud of their participation in the implementation of their playing area, together with the project team and the workshop participants.

WORKSHOP III: COLORING GENEINA Objectives and Preparation The objective of this workshop was to invigorate and embolden the Geneina space by adding cheerful and joyful drawings and colors to the play elements and walls. The project team collaborated with the Coloring a Grey City group and with other participants from previous workshops to implement these activities. The color scheme was set by both the Coloring a Grey City group and the project team.


Workshop Activities The workshop activities took place over 2 days where the participants were divided into 2 groups. The participants covered four different zones: i) the elliptical wall surrounding the toddlers’ area; ii) the slides area; iii) the stage area; and iv) the Geneina entrance walls. The team used vivid colors -something that is lacking in the Masaken Othman area- to paint the different play elements. The painting process was also used to draw in a variety of floor games in the stage area such as Hopscotch, specifically targeting young girls. Similar to what happened in the previous workshops, the children of the area participated in these painting and coloring activities.






The Geneina process was an enjoyable, but challenging journey which required a much larger amount of effort from the team than what was initially expected; nonetheless the end result was truly rewarding. Despite the importance of the end product itself, –the upgraded public open space,- the learning and capacity building process that took place during and after the implementation of this project was equally important. Therefore, the team would like to share some of the lessons learnt throughout this process: • Geneina’s success is a result of the collaborative efforts of more than 10 entities working together at different stages of the project. The UNHCR team, for instance, played a crucial role in coordinating among several governmental agencies, international donors, local NGOs and art groups. The entire process was made possible due to the large amount of effort placed in efficient planning and coordination among the different entities. • A core element of Geneina’s success was the exchange of knowledge that occurred across all entities involved. This included building the capacity of the different stakeholders, along with the active participation of the area’s local youth in the construction of the play elements which prepared them for potential maintenance needs of Geneina. Moreover, the “Geneina in Action” workshops successfully trained a group of more than 30 young professionals and undergraduate students who can in turn build upon the newly learnt techniques, pass it on to other tertiary parties and potentially implement it in other locations. • Another key element of the project’s process was the continued participation of the local community (Egyptian, Syrian and Sudanese) from the beginning. Their engagement in all project details may have slowed down the project procession in order to ensure that all their requirements are being met. Yet, the impact of this dedicated inclusion was profound in the heightened sense of ownership especially observed among the children, who were excited – from Day One – about the daily progress of the different works. Children of the area felt – for the first time – that a public project is being specifically developed for them and became adamant that their


project becomes a reality. Despite the difficulties, this true sense of ownership is what the Geneina project was hoping for. • One of the fundamental questions during the Geneina project development was that, given the stressed social and economic conditions of the area, was this the right place to talk about the right to play? There is no doubt that Masaken Othman needs an extensive effort from various governmental and non-governmental agencies to improve the area’s living conditions. However, our message was simple: the local children’s right to play and the women’s right to safe, public open spaces, does not contradict with other development priorities or efforts. Moreover, such questions were never raised by the area’s children throughout the entire process – they only came from adults. However, once the project was complete many of these skeptical adults began visiting the place, and even more were found to use the children’s play elements as well. Adults in the area began to gradually comprehend the value and need of a high-quality public open space. Beyond the right to play, locals were realizing the right to public space and the importance of a social setting, however small, in the public domain of the neighborhood. Since its inauguration, Geneina has been the hub of many community activities organised primarily by Shaarawy Foundation for Development as well as other development partners.

• The institutional setup of Geneina was unconventional. It is not common practice where entities such as UNHCR, a social enterprise such as Takween ICD, and governmental agencies such as the City Administration and the New Urban Communities Authorities collaborate together to develop a recreational facility dedicated for children in public housing areas as such. This institutional setup posed some challenges for the different partners, especially when it came to official approvals, bureaucratic procedures or access to public utilities. The collaboration of the local authorities to allocate the land to the project, provide the different approvals, and come up with solutions to some of the challenges met, was key to the success of this project. And despite the fact that there is still room to address some of the pending institutional challenges, there is a definite need to capitalize on what has been achieved through this partnership to find long-term institutional solutions for such collaboration and partnership efforts. • Finally, Geneina was never designed as a stand-alone project. Rather it should be the seed of a series of interventions and developmental projects within Masaken Othman. Throughout the project process, Egyptian, Syrian and Sudanese children of the area have shown a great deal of creativity, innovation, positive critique and learning abilities. To this effect, Takween ICD has planned a scheme where Geneina is complemented by a football pitch serving the area’s older youth group. In addition, the plan also incorporates a “Community School/ Children Center” where the children, –regardless of their backgrounds,- can spend more quality time with one another and, together, gain new skills. Geneina is not the end of the journey in Masaken Othman, it is just the beginning of greatly needed integrated development efforts in the area.




is the new open space located in Masaken Othman area (6th of October City), providing a recreational communal node that serves the children and women residing in the area. The area allows children, of all ages and nationalities, to actively play. The space is created as an interactive atmosphere with a diversity of playing elements that are designed and based on participatory design workshops conducted with the area’s children and adults. It is a place for the children that they can call their own, where they can play freely and enjoy the simplest rights of their childhood. Geneina also targets to provide a platform for mothers -and women in general- to interact openly and safely. Creating such a safe outdoor ‘Meet and Play’ area, serving as a functional public open space, is highly needed as expressed by the residents of Masaken Othman; to benefit the entire community and to increase the level of integration and mutual acceptance between the local residents and the refugee community in the area.