Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared
Refugee Camp


The homes of 27,000 Palestinian refugees will be replaced as part of this reconstruction project underway at Nahr el-Bared, 16 kilometres outside of Tripoli, Lebanon (+ slideshow).

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp

First established in the 1940s to accommodate refugees from the Lake Huleh area of northern Palestine, the 19-hectare Nahr el-Bared refugee camp was almost entirely destroyed during the 2007 conflict between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the extremist group Fatah Al-Islam. Thousands of families were forced to abandon their homes and seek temporary refuge at another nearby camp.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp

In 2008 the United Nations Relief & Works Agency embarked on an ambitious project to replace the buildings that had been destroyed. Working alongside the community-based Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission, the team developed an eight-phase masterplan for 5000 houses, 1500 shops and six school complexes.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp

The reconstruction includes the replacement of all infrastructure for the camp, including water and sewage networks as well as electricity.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp

The agency has also been able to increase the amount of public space around the buildings from 11 to 35 per cent by introducing a system of independent structures that can be extended up to four storeys.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp
Nahr el-Bared before reconstruction

The first families began returning to their homes in 2011 and the first three completed schools opened to students later the same year.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp

The Nahr el-Bared reconstruction is one of 20 projects on the shortlist for the Aga Khan Award 2013. Five or six finalists will be revealed later this year and will compete to win the $1 million prize. Other projects on the shortlist include an Islamic cemetery in Austria and a museum of paper in China.

Here's a short project description from the Aga Khan Award organisers:

Reconstructing a camp of 27,000 refugees which was 95% destroyed during the 2007 war involved a planning effort with the entire community, followed by a series of eight construction phases. Limited land and the exigency of recreating physical and social fabrics were primary considerations. Established in 1948, the camp followed the extended-family pattern and building typology of the refugees' villages. In a layout where roads provided light and ventilation, the goal was to increase non-built areas from 11% to 35%. It was achieved by giving each building an independent structural system allowing for vertical expansion up to four floors on a reduced footprint.

Reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared Refugee Camp
Massing model

Location: Tripoli, Lebanon (West Asia)
Architect: United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC)
Client: United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA), Beirut, Lebanon
Completed: 2011
Design: 2008
Site size: 190,000 sqm

  • Anonimus

    Awesome project. Architecture in capital letters. It is not only objectively a necessary project but it has been handled with respect of local culture. Happy to see that they did not replace the wriggling street fabric with huge monoliths issued from the ’60s. The water deposits are also beautiful in my opinion.

  • John

    Great to see Dezeen covering this!

  • Can a refugee camp look beautiful? Yes.

  • Anisul Choudhury

    I think it is an amazing project and I’m grateful to the agency for carrying out such a mammoth task to rebuild this refugee camp for 27000 Palestinians. A massive stepping stone to remove refugee camps from our vocabulary, as beautiful as this one is, it should be a city in its own right.

  • Bruce

    Tripoli is in Libya, not Lebanon.

    • dezeen_intense

      Hi Bruce,

      Tripoli is indeed in Libya – but it's also the name of a large city in northern Lebanon.



  • Sarah Saleh

    Thank you Dezeen for covering this.

  • Colonel Pancake

    War sucks.

  • marghe

    Good to find this on Dezeen! Please cover such projects more often! Thanks :)

  • It is great to see that Dezeen is reporting on socially conscious design and architecture in the Arab world!

  • IVG


  • Brahim El Mouaatamid

    Indeed this is a great concrete project. I am sure they feel relieved now.