Dezeen Magazine

Design weeks in unusual places

Beirut Design Week returns to show the world Lebanon "is not just about political instability"

Dezeen promotion: the challenges of regional political instability have fuelled the creativity of designers in Lebanon, says the director of Beirut Design Week, which takes place in the city this month.

Now in its sixth consecutive year, Beirut Design Week (BDW) is organised by the non-profit MENA Design Research Center, which promotes design in the Middle East and North Africa.

Beirut Design Week
Among the exhibiting designers is Nada Debs, who mixes Middle Eastern and East Asian sensibilities to create "a fusion of East and East"

The event brings exhibitions, installations, talks and parties to the Lebanese capital, and runs from 19 to 26 May. Dezeen is a media partner.

Doreen Toutikian, who is co-founder and director of both BDW and the MENA Design Research Center, told Dezeen that the event aimed to present Beirut's creative and entrepreneurial side to the world.

"We'd like to show the world that Beirut is not just about political instability, especially during such critical times, but that we are a city and people that have overcome many challenges and have used them to fuel our creativity," Toutikian said.

Beirut Design Week
Co-working and event space The Submarine will open its doors during Beirut Design Week

BDW also plays an important role domestically by starting conversations around new topics in design. Each year's event puts the focus on a different theme, and this year's will look at critical and speculative design, under the banner "Is Design a Need?".

"We use BDW as an opportunity to explore new forms of design that might not have been introduced to designers in the country, and we do that through talks, exhibitions, workshops and the annual conference," Toutikian said.

"In other words, we definitely support the economic development of the design sector, but our goals are more cultural rather than commercial," she continued. "This year we aim to create awareness about critical and speculative design, which looks at design as a tool to question the discipline itself beyond the market-oriented norms."

Beirut Design Week
Branding and interactive design agency WonderEight will showcase work during Karantina's district day

Since 2016, the festival's hub has been at KED, a refurbished 1930s metallurgical factory that is located port-side in the industrial zone of Karantina.

Here, four floors of exhibitions will respond to this year's theme, Is Design a Need? Highlights include NationMetrix, an installation by Roula Salamoun and Ieva Saudergaitė that promises visitors the spatial and sensorial experience of travelling as a Lebanese passport holder.

There is also Speculative Needs, an exhibition of technology prototypes inspired by our need for physical human interaction, and Critical Mass: Women in Graphic Design, which explores the role of women graphic designers in contemporary Lebanon.

Beirut Design Week
The Speculative Needs exhibition will explore prototypes inspired by our need for physical human interaction

Saturday 20 May will see the Criteria Conference run at the Sursock Museum, a contemporary art gallery set in a 1912 mansion.

International keynote speakers at the event include designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg from the UK, Bernd Hopfengartner from Germany and Björn Franke from Switzerland, who will all present on critical and speculative design topics.

Beirut Design Week
Rosa Maria Jewellery will be showcased in the district of Mar Mikhael on Friday 26 May

Outside of these key events, BDW will activate a number of districts throughout the city. A different district will be spotlighted each day with open studios, collection launches, exhibitions, workshops, networking events, talks and parties.

The spotlighted districts are Downtown Beirut and Saifi Village on Monday; Gemmayze and Sursock on Tuesday; Achrafieh on Wednesday; Hamra, Sin El Fil and Mkalles on Thursday; and Mar Mikhael, Bourj Hammoud and Karantina on Friday.

BDW takes place from 19 to 26 May in locations all around the city. For more information, visit the event website.