we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital

WE DESIGN BEIRUT is launching from May 23 – 26, 2024

 

Following its postponement amid the Israel-Gaza war, We Design Beirut is officially launching in the Lebanese capital next week, from May 23rd to May 26th, 2024. The four-day inaugural event is dedicated to showcasing Arab and regional design through a rich multidisciplinary program of exhibitions, open studios, installations, talks, and workshops in interior design, architecture, furniture, product design, functional art, ceramics, home accessories, and rugs. Through its program, WDB will engage the creative talent of established and emerging designers, artisans, specialists, and educators through empowerment, preservation, and sustainability.’ It has always been about the ‘we’, we the people of Lebanon, we who keep coming back, we who keep rebuilding the city, and having hope for its future,‘ shares Mariana Wehbe, Founder of We Design Beirut. Even more, the festival will provide visitors access to some of the country’s most culturally significant sites. Read on as we guide you through the highlights of We Design Beirut. 

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Interdesign building by Khalil Khouri | image © Walid Rashid

 

 

exploring the program’s three main activation sites

 

Founded by Mariana Wehbe with industrial designer Samer Alameen and visual communications studio Bananamonkey and managed by Head of Projects Ghady Azar, We Design Beirut (see more here) pays homage to the city’s design history and creative spirit; for over a century, Lebanon has been a crucible of international architecture, drawing in the likes of Brazil’s Oscar Niemeyer and France’s Jean Royuere. That being said, the multi-tiered event hopes to enrich the current design ecosystem by looking to the past and present, serving as a petri dish for the future of spatial and functional design. This vision includes staging the program against the backdrop of some of Lebanon’s most iconic sites, with three landmarks serving as hubs for this year’s theme of empowerment, preservation, and sustainability. 

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
PSLab | image © Karim Sakr

 

 

The first site, PSLab, will serve as the empowerment hub and We Design Beirut’s official headquarters. Originally home to one of Lebanon’s acclaimed lighting firms till the August 2020 explosion, PSLab provides talented craftsmen and artisans a retail outlet and an exhibition space, as well as a platform for hosted talks, workshops, and discussions by specialists from the realm of craftsmanship. For this event, Wehbe and her team will utilize the space to showcase Lebanon’s centuries-old artisanal splendors and craftsmen and women through the Métiers d’Art exhibition, as well as the collaborative Italian project We Mediterranean. Popping up at this venue are PIK’D Gallery and The Silly Spoon, two of the most established design stores in Beirut. Guests will also enjoy several installations, including an exclusive by Stones by Rania Malli, one of the region’s top natural stone suppliers and designers, and a showcase for furniture and product design studio Collective Y by Rhea Younes. 

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
The Silly Spoon collection | image courtesy the brand

 

 

Meanwhile, the Abroyan Factory will transform into the event’s sustainability hub. This historic building in the neighborhood of Burj Hammoud was built in three stages between the forties and the seventies, employing over 600 workers in its prime before being left behind. Covering 14,000 square meters, the space now hosts art exhibitions, concerts, and private events. On the occasion of We Design Beirut, the factory will explore the future of global design by hosting a collective exhibition titled We Search. Open to current students and graduates, as well as emerging talents under the age of 30, the show will promote sustainable/recycled materials with an environmentally friendly production process. This exhibition is curated by international design experts Federica Sala, Anne-France Berthelon, and Francois LeBlanc De Cecilia. Abroyan will hold a second showcase, Materials Exhibition, which includes sustainability innovators like Plastc Lab, Annine Fadye, Alyaf, Bits to Atoms, Hadi Abou Hamdan, Hearth, Juzur, Michele Braidy, OyaWay, Ziad Abi Chaker x Johanne Issa.

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Abroyan Factory | image courtesy Union Marks

 

 

Finally, Villa Audi will take over as the third activation site and hub for preservation. A symbol of traditional architecture nestled in Beirut’s Ashrafyeh neighborhood, the historic building —  now turned into a museum displaying an impressive collection of moasaics — will house the exhibition Past Echoes: A Journey through Middle Eastern Product Design, curated by Babylon – The Agency, founded by Joy Mardini and William Wehbe, in addition to a number of installations and popups, featuring Collective Y by Rhea Younes, Stones by Rania Malli, and Altus.

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Abroyan Factory | image courtesy Union Marks

 

 

Other iconic sites activated during the event include the Royal Cinema, which dates back to 1962. This previously abandoned cinema has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center following years of appropriations by different owners. Reflecting the glory days of the 60s in Lebanon, the space reached its peak then, and now serves as a hub for artistic expression and community engagement. Meanwhile, the iconic Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli,the largest project by Oscar Niemeyer outside of his native Brazil, will be revisited as part of a panel talk by EAST Architecture Studiowho recently and partially renovated the landmark. The practice is also the recipient of the 2022 Aga Khan award.

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Collective Y by Rhea Younes | image courtesy the brand

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Villa Audi | image © Walid Rashid

 

city exhibitions to look out for

 

Renowned product designer Nada Debs will launch a special showcase at her studio in Gemmayze, Beirut, presenting SWIRLMANIA — a series of over 20 handcrafted occasional tables, aptly named Swirl. Each piece in the collection is meticulously crafted using various techniques. Also joining the city exhibitions is a subjective recount of Lebanese architect and designer Khalil Khouri’s life and career, titled All things must(‘nt) pass, curated by his son and acclaimed architect Bernard Khoury along with his grandson, Teymour Khoury. It takes place at the iconic Interdesign building, one of the late architect’s most internationally respected works.

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Studio Nada Debs collection | image courtesy the brand

 

 

Lastly, third-generation carpet house Iwan Maktabi will transform the three floors of their flagship store into an experience that will guide viewers through different collections. The underground floor will showcase the installation of Forgotten Spaces designed by Thomas Modeen, epitomizing meticulous craftsmanship and a blend of pragmatism and sophistication in floor coverings and wall tapestries. It highlights the aesthetic potential hidden in overlooked areas of interior spaces, paying homage to corners and transitional spaces. Modeen’s creativity extends beyond floor coverings, using original genotypes to create tapestries for adorning various spaces, from corners to doorways and even personal meditation areas. 

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Interdesign building by Khalil Khouri | image © Walid Rashid

 

 

The showroom floor of Iwan Maktabi will showcase ‘Lab Story – a Retrospective’ of the house’s research hub established five years. Dubbed the Iwan Maktabi Lab, this intiative focuses on producing sustainable and inventive designs by merging technology and innovative materials with traditional weaving techniques and other crafts. For We Design Beirut, viewers will get to experience the design process of sample selection, hits and misses, and witness the final steps of reaching the desired product. 

 

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Forgotten Spaces installation at Iwan Maktabi | image courtesy the carpet house

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
mun onyx by offgrid | image courtesy the brand

we design beirut's inaugural event will activate historic sites across the lebanese capital
Cinema Royal | image courtesy Karim Sakr

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PSLab | image © Karim Sakr

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