Over the past few years, Beirut has earned recognition as a major design hub in the Arab region. At no other time does this become more apparent than during Beirut Design Week, set to kick off on Monday, June 9 in what will be its third edition. The annual festival, hosted by the MENA Research Design Center, offers savvy designers across Lebanon the opportunity to showcase their latest innovations and provide the community with an inside look at their workshops and ateliers.
This year, you can expect a full 6-day schedule of workshops, talks, exhibitions, open studios, panel discussions and more. The festival is spread out across 87 locations in Beirut and further divided between six main neighborhoods. “Every day is dedicated to an area of Beirut to make it easier for people to grab the map and walk around the city discovering all the gems that make up Beirut Design Week,” said Doreen Toutikian, co-founder of the MENA Research Design Center and organizer of the event.
Miss Toutikian describes the evolution of the Lebanese design scene as a gradual and organic experience for all the stakeholders involved. “Beirut has the densest and highest abundance of creative output in the region… unlike Dubai for example, which imports design from all corners of the world, we make it ourselves.” Doreen thinks the Lebanese design industry is rapidly developing as local universities are working alongside international standards. “We can probably compete with smaller cities around the world that also have design weeks, we might not have the same design history, but we are catching up,” she said.
According to Toutikian, Lebanon has always had a massive craftsmanship industry and Lebanese universities have had design departments as early as the 1980s. However, what the country lacked were organizations such as the MENA Research Design Center to set the platform for local designers to showcase their work, especially at a time when Lebanon had just come out of a civil war and people were failing to acknowledge the value of local design work. “We have been importing everything since the war, and it is simply a matter of time for people to readjust to this identity crisis and find value in products designed in their home country.”
Beit Waraq, the multidisciplinary artistic collective founded in 2012, will be hosting an open-studio during the week. A compilation of the collective’s work will be on display around the Waraq house in the Ras El Nabeh neighborhood. “We are four very curious individuals from different backgrounds: illustration, animation, performing arts and design, we focus on combining these different disciplines to create socially engaging projects,” Hussein Nakhal, one of the four co-founders of the project, told Beirut.com.”Dekkenet Waraq” will also be launched, introducing WARAQ’s very own local merchandise of illustrations, postcards, notebooks and more. If it’s anything like Waraq’s vintage sale held back in April, it’s going to be something you don’t want to miss.
RapidManufactory, the Middle East’s first 3D printing and rapid manufacturing shop launched in 2013 by French multidisciplinary architect Guillaume Crédoz, will embark on its collaborative exhibition space dubbed, FreshlyBakedToday. Designers from all over the world have the opportunity to submit their 3D creations online and selected designs will be printed and displayed for sale at the Bakery, RapidManufactory’s cozy design lab in Mar Mikhael that derives its unconventional name (some of its qualities, too) from the communal bakery it once was. Previous RapidManufactory projects also include TheObsessiveDrafter, a tech-art installation recently featured at Design Days Dubai, which draws large murals and portraits, autonomous from human intervention.
In an interview with Beirut.com right after Dubai’s exhibition, Guillaume spoke enthusiastically about the different phases of the project on which he teamed up with Lebanese fluid mechanics engineer Nareg Karaolaghnian. TheObsessiveDrafter was set to develop a mind of its own. Commands sent to the robot become so complex and intertwined that no one can fully predict its final output, the makers included. “We want people to project thought into the machine and be curious of what the machine is thinking,” Guillaume explained.
This intimate interaction with the audience links back to the greater vision behind Beirut Design Week. It’s an effort to bring ordinary people into direct contact with designers and their work in a fluid and fun way to promote interaction, sustainability and the future development of the design and art world in Lebanon.