Alberto Marchioretto

An Interview with Lara Balaa

"Noord is a construction site, a space in transition."

July 2010. Lara is part of the Mapping for Tourists (now Noord) design team, working on the first Arabic travel guide to The Netherlands.


Lara Balaa. - July 2010. Lara Balaa is part of the design team of the Noord project. Lars Wannop

With: Lara Balaa

What were you like as a child?

I was always doing stuff with my hands, painting or making clothes for my toys. I didn't need TV or lots of other children around me: I was able to entertain myself and create my own fun.

Are you religious?

When I was a teenager, I occupied myself with existential questions about God and religion. Nowadays I don't. I realize there are much more urgent questions to answer, and I would rather focus on understanding myself, and the things and the people around me.

Can you tell us something about the political situation in Lebanon?

The political situation in Lebanon is simply ‘not working'. Apart from those who are in power, I doubt you'll find any Lebanese person who is happy with the way things are going at the moment. There is a lot of corruption.

What brought you to The Netherlands?

I came here two years ago for my MA, and will go back to Lebanon in September. I will really miss the freedom of circulating freely across borders.

What is the biggest difference between The Netherlands and Lebanon?

Lebanon is definitely a small community: everybody knows everybody. In Holland, you can be pretty much anonymous. And it is nice to feel anonymous every now and then. I need the privacy and the freedom it allows you.

Do you like Amsterdam-Noord?

I do. What I enjoy most is the sense of openness that Noord offers. Unlike in the overcrowded city center, there is a lot of free space in Noord. There's room to walk and to breath. I also see it as a big construction site, a 'work in progress'-zone, a space in transition. I'm curious to see how it's going to develop.

How is the travel guide coming along?

We are still experimenting with the design, but the concept behind the project is very inspiring. And I believe the team of participants is a very heterogeneous one, with just the right amount of variation. It's varied enough to produce the rich content the project calls for.