Spaces generated by highways are mostly dead areas where industry takes over. And in worse cases, it would be pollution, unused truck cemeteries, and lots of wild vegetation, dooming the area unapproachable.
KED sits in the middle of a messy highway intersection behind Forum de Beirut overlooking the city with the sea at its back. It appears to be a hideout in the middle of the mess, trying to make sense of Beirut’s tangled infrastructure. It is a grown-up version of a tree house; where kids gathered with their friends, shared stories and created memories that made them never want to leave.
That is exactly what Gaby -the owner- has in mind. A cultural hub that is spontaneous in its events, catering for multidisciplinary design away from staged or static events in the sense that is private and unengaging. The aim is to keep it lively and bubbling with excitement and chatter making it louder than the outside traffic.
The building belonged to the Markarian family where Gaby’s grandfather established a metallurgical factory: Markarian Establishment. The location of the establishment was strategic in its proximity to the port for export/import as well as the river for water.
In 1932, the building was already up and running as a factory with just one floor. The first floor was added in 1951 part of an expansion need while the last floor was added by the militias who occupied the building during the Lebanese war in the 80s.
Being in Karantina -home for the Armenian refugees, it was also close to the sea contamination as well as housing the main slaughterhouses of Beirut.
To be able to revive an area with such negative history into a cultural hub for artists was exactly what KED with the association of Beirut Design Week aimed at during its 2016 edition -where KED was the central hub for the BDW exhibitions. The owners aimed at using this opportunity to reincarnate the old factory giving it a new life in arts and culture.
What makes KED cool?
With its rich history and strategic location at the edge of Beirut, it’s invigorating to cross the threshold of traffic into a secret garden where art flourishes. Even birds loved nesting in the ceiling before renovation!
The first floor is the biggest area of the space where it has the potential to cater for one big exhibition or smaller ones divided between the spaces -as was the case during design week.
The second floor is the conferences floor. Workshop Room 1 has walls made of chalkboard. It is a new take on brainstorming ideas and allowing more room for exchange. The wax prints on the floor have been left intentionally as proof of the creations that took place in that room. The building that was once war-torn and had prints of destruction on its walls is now imprinted with live art. And that is just the best one can do: offer a living space to a city that has struggled as much as Beirut did.
And last but certainly not least, the roof was also meant to be accessible and enjoyed by the public, for it had been turned into a rooftop bar.
The view from the roof is uninterrupted, giving an almost 360 degrees outlook onto the sunset. One could say that KED has got the whole package and can cater for almost everyone in this field. Even if you’re not part of the design field, you could still enjoy a drink, and yummy finger food while watching the sun set.
Experiencing this space gives a very familiar feeling of what Beirut is to many of us; young happy nights with smiles and bright lights, engaging with art, long talks and eyes that shimmer with excitement.