The Guide
25 April 2023

Beirut. The Eras of Design at mudac

by Redaction NOW Village

© Elie Bekhazi

Beirut. The Eras of Design, in co-production with the CID – Centre d’innovation et de design in Grand-Hornu, is a pioneering exhibition that seeks to understand the dynamics that have allowed the emergence of design in Lebanon. It will be held from 7 April to 6 August 2023 at the mudac.

The exhibition Beirut. The Eras of Design, explores the dynamics of design development in Lebanon, presenting for the first time a study of the history of this discipline in the country. Structured in three sections, the exhibition addresses the beginnings of design in the 1950s-1970s, its evolution from the 1990s to the present day, and the Minjara project and its philosophy. It is accompanied by a publication on the various aspects of this emerging scene.

View of the exhibition « Beirut. The Eras of Design » © Etienne Malapert

The History of Lebanese Design

Design in Lebanon has a rich and complex history that dates back to the time of the French mandate (1918-1943), when Beirut underwent a major transformation to conform to Western models. However, it was during the period of the First Lebanese Republic (1945-1975) that design emerged as a discipline in its own right in Lebanon. The exhibition traces this history, beginning with a historical perspective from the 1940s to the 1990s, exploring the key players and the most emblematic works that shaped Lebanese design as we know it today.

Fontana, Young Woman on the Phone in the Fontana Shop, 1970 © Jack Matossian ⎸ Hall of the Casino du Liban, Serge Sassouni, 1968 © Courtesy Casino du Liban Photo Archives

From the 1990’s to the Present Day

After the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, the reconstruction of Beirut and the country became a priority to attract investors. This period marks a revival for design, which is reinstalled in the city’s geographical, economic and creative spaces. However, the specific urban development of the city has consequences for designers. Off-centre spaces are being redeveloped and upgraded, but gentrification is developing rapidly in the absence of state urban planning. Despite this, design is now seen as a driving force in the development of a micro-economy, and its importance is increasingly recognised in contemporary design. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the re-emergence of design appetite, with the development of creative centres such as Corniche al-Nahr, Quarantine, Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael and Badaro.

Teaching Design

The emergence of design in Lebanon intensified after the end of the civil war in 1990. Beirut, as a creative city, saw a proliferation of workshops, galleries, schools and architectural offices. However, the haphazard urban development of the city has had consequences on the creative community, which has had to settle in peripheral or fallow spaces. In spite of this, several structures were created at the beginning of the years 2000, such as the XXe siècle gallery, which offers vintage pieces, and the Carwan gallery, which promotes Lebanese design. This dynamic has continued with the emergence of several specialized fairs, including the Beirut Design Fair in 2017, thus contributing to the development of new art markets in the region. These initiatives are mainly supported by private funds and patrons, but also by foreign museum institutions.

Carla Baz, Minerals Series, 2018 © Elie Bekhazi ⎸ Richard Yasmine, Glory Holes, 2015 © Mike Malajalian

Minjara Tripoli

Minjara means carpentry in Arabic, it is an innovative project aiming to preserve Lebanon’s wood craft heritage and encourage innovation through a dialogue between traditional craftsmen and contemporary designers. With the help of the European Union, the platform was created in 2018 in an emblematic architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, in order to provide a place for creation, training and synergy. Minjara federates creators under a quality label to allow them local and international recognition. After the tragic explosion in Beirut in 2020, Minjara mobilised its local skills to help with the reconstruction by providing a temporary door system and offering direct intervention on the building sites. The platform is both a showcase of Lebanese know-how and a space for exchange, meeting and research that invites to mix heritage and innovation.

Oscar Niemeyer, Rachid Karameh International Fair, Tripoli. © Elie Bekhazi ⎸ Samer Alamen x Okajian, Nostalgia, 2019, screen and sideboard © Elie Bekhazi

Artwork on the header: Oscar Niemeyer, Rachid Karameh International Fair, Tripoli. © Picture: Elie Bekhazi

Beyrouth. The Eras of Design
From April 7th to August 6th, 2023
mudac, Musée cantonal de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains
Place de la Gare 17, 1003 Lausanne
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