“Roghata” is Arabic for “Group Consultation”. The Roghata Community Urban Design Charettes program is designed to give people a say in how their communities are developed, and to promote ownership in Libya’s new public spaces. The pilot program was successfully implemented in the Hay Al Andulus, a beachfront community in Tripoli Libya on January 5th, 2014.
Four decades of severe neglect has left Libya’s plentiful public spaces in very poor condition. Libyans too have learned to dissociate from public spaces, and become ambivalent to their demise. The Gaddafi regime’s severe anti-association policies, the enormous surveillance and intelligence network, and the general sense that “this is Gaddafi’s Libya” rendered the public sphere hostile to the average citizen. In 2012 Libya’s capital Tripoli was ranked the world’s 6th worst city to live in according to the Economist Intelligence Unit “livability of cities” survey.
Libya is the world’s 6th largest oil producer, and the population is less than 5.5 million. Though the 2011 uprising lead to regime change, governance is still far from democratic in Libya and Libyan’s suffer the exclusion, and opaqueness of a governance culture that remains autocratic in nature. Major development projects, retail outlets, and international hotel chains are climbing to the top of Libya’s development agenda and many Libyans are nervous about how projects will define their communities in the upcoming decade. The silent bidding and approval of such development projects has further exasperated the sense of detachment and ambivalence toward the public space. Though well-intentioned, the new Libyan ministers of infrastructure, planning and tourism are arbitrarily approving grand development projects while making no effort to learn what communities want in their new and hard earned public life. The Roghata Program seeks to promote the engagement of communities toward a progressive and sustainable development that produces peaceful and thriving public spaces.
The Roghata program pilot was launched in Tripoli’s most populated neighborhood and home of the NLF Civil Society Incubator Center, Hay Al Andulus. The pilot targeted the Hay Al Andulus’s beachfront, which remains in rubble 10 years after it was demolished to make room for a vast private complex comprised of condominiums, malls, and private beach clubs. Still in rubble, the seafront is now the only reprieve for citizens in the town which has no parks, playgrounds, museums, community centers, or developed public spaces. The Roghata Community Urban Design Program Pilot was a partnership between the New Libya Foundation, and The Arab Council for Social Sciences (ACSS) “Producing the Public in Arab Societies” program. It was inspired by the 2013 Desmond Tutu African Leadership Fellows community project assignment and lead by Urban Planning professor Dr. Adnan Husnein. The project engages Hay Al Andulus Community members in a series of moderated community dialogues and surveys.
The Roghata especially sought to engage women, children, the elderly, and the physically disabled to learn what facilities, and services they hope to see at the sea-front complex in order to produce the public spaces they can meaningfully engage in. The consultations began with the issuance of surveys which are distributed door to door and made available online. The surveys assess the current condition of the neighborhood, including infrastructure, security and law enforcement, health concerns, environment, and access to public spaces (parks, centers). Participants are asked about the priorities in neighborhood development, what they hope to see built, and what they are willing to contribute to re-building. The data was compiled by Tripoli University students and professors in the fields of architecture, urban planning and graphic design. During the final “charrete” or “Roghata” event, community members joined designers and local council members for a day long design charette at the beachfront location. The event began with an hour long morning walk around the beachfront, followed by design sessions among five groups composed of community members, designers, and Tripoli local council members. The final five designs composed from the charette were rendered into graphic images of the sea-front that express the community’s vision. The images were then rendered onto a series of billboards and murals around the seafront.
The Roghata program is as much about re-building the Hay Al Andulus Beach Front as about promoting the democratic process. An inclusive, participatory and sustainable development process is one of the many ways Libyans can begin building a viable and thriving Libyan state
- Promote community ties and dialogue
- Create and promote shared vision of the Hay-Al-Andulus’s seafront
- Engage groups currently minimally engaged in public life, such as women, the physically disabled, children, and the elderly, in community building.
- Demonstrate what democratic processes looks and feels like.
- Inform government on how to conduct community consultation
- Create first hand knowledge of the public realm’s impact on identity, active citizenry, trust in community, and state.