Run

There will be days when all I really want to do is run. But I don’t.

I want to go train at 5.30 AM. But i don’t.

I sometimes drag myself out of bed, get dressed and get ready for the run, only to climb back in bed and ditch the training altogether. How can someone resist something that actually holds the key to their happiness?
And at night as I lay in bed, I think back and wonder about the reason, questioning whether I am lazy or still depressed and anxious. And I do not find an answer. For all I hear are voices of other people asking: so why didn’t you do it? Or imagine meeting my teammates, and getting bombarded by all sorts of questions. And that thought makes me even more anxious.

I even found a way to make running, my getaway, stressful for me. I started stressing about my time and my pace. I started to stress myself out and eventually I stopped running. Because every time I do think of going out, I know that I would be slow. Instead of focusing on the joy running brings me, I started focusing on how bummed out I would feel when i look down at my Garmin and see a time I do not like. So I get demotivated, and I ditch the run altogether. The anxiety this gave me affected most of the other aspects of my life.

I am not inadequate. I know that. I do know my potential.

I know that if I train, I can shave off at least 30 minutes off of my marathon time. I know i am happiest when i run, after i run. During, i might be suffering, but i know my mind clears after i do it. and the runner’s high is real. it’s a different kind of happiness that not so many people understand.

I look at all my happy and excited teammates, and i know that we are so different. I can’t be like that. How can they be this happy? How can they not be struggling as well? I completely do not get it. I look at them and feel angry and kind of isolated wondering what they might be thinking of this girl who skips most training and sometimes barely shows up. Way to make myself feel even worse.

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And I reached the peak now. The peak of having exercise, my getaway, as something that is so far from me. I did beat myself up over it for a while, but then decided that instead, I am going to accept that this is just a phase. I have been living abroad for a few months, dealing with work, being alone and A LOT of thinking of the future. I deserve a break.

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with Leila right before the Faqra race last week

Last sunday was the race for which I was supposed to have been training for since two months. But I did not train. Even in Lebanon, i ran only once in a month. But I went to the race anyway. A good friend, Leila, signed me up and I think that’s good. I decided to leave my Garmin at home. I decided I’m going to go run without thinking of my time. Even if it takes me 40 minutes (for the first time ever, a 5K did take me 40 minutes). I will not stress myself over this. I am going to go do what I love most. I’m going to run.

And i did run. And I also walked. I have never been this unfit in my life. But when i crossed the finish line, I was satisfied. I went and I did my best. I ran because I love to run. I am still not over this rut, and I am trying not to stress myself or pressure myself to do something I am not yet ready to do. I started running as a way to face my fear, and ended up meeting so many amazing and inspiring beings, and falling in love with this minimal yet hardcore sport.

Two years ago I ran the Beirut marathon. I ran it with dedication and yet it did not fully exclude some setbacks but I did it. Training was never more satisfying and I was never happier or more fit than that phase in my life. And yet not many understand what people battling a mental illness go through just to get themselves out of bed in the morning. So one can imagine what a huge achievement finishing a marathon could mean to me.

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After finishing the marathon and seeing my coach waiting for me

I was lucky to have a great running buddy who helped me push through it, and a great coach that helped us cross the finish line. The running community is one of the best there is and I feel lucky to be part of it.

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Dania, my running buddy during the Beirut Marathon

And it is not over. This is a phase that I will take in, give myself as much time as I need, and I am coming back stronger and I am going to kick some serious ass. There’s a big plan for this in my future, and I’m getting there. One setback at a time, I’m rushing through them coming at me in the opposite direction, and I will continue straight to the finish line.

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a 30 km Sunday training run before the Beirut Marathon in 2015

So instead of thinking about how bad I might be feeling at the moment, I will focus on how good running makes me feel. While training I will leave my watch at home, and just do what I can at the moment, without any self-judgement. I am doing this for me, and not for anyone else, which is why no matter what anyone’s opinion is of my regressed performance, it will not matter.

And I will end with one of the quotes I listen to while running (Yes, I listen to motivational men shouting in my ear while on the run, that’s what keeps me going):

“And every time you fail it’s painful. it causes sadness… and disappointment. I’ve often said a man’s character is not judged after he celebrates a victory but by what he does when his back is against the wall. So no matter how great the setback or how severe the failure, you never give up. You never give up. You pick yourself up. You brush yourself off. You push forward. You move on. You adapt. You overcome.”

and it is only a matter of time.

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Salone

Milan Design Week is a marathon week: a journey through cultures, ideas, and experiments. A journey through spaces; some big, and some very small. A journey through beauty, creativity, innovation, playfulness and at times even pure genius.

With inspiration all around, one does not know where or even how to start. This week not only unveils the beauty within the minds of designers from all over the world, but the hidden beauty within the city of design itself. Walking from one area to another, you discover secluded alleys, subtle corners and hidden buildings within this marvelous city.

You can never see everything during design week. But the whole experience is memorable and worth every drop of rain (yes it rains every single year during this week), feet pain, and the ridiculous amount of catalogues you just couldn’t help but grab.

The following post is part 1/2 of what I had come across during this beautiful week. I have chosen to exhibit some of the items that have really caught my eye and that I would like to share.

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The first stop was at the Wallpaper Store pop-up shop. For a minute, I was taken aback by the location itself rather than the designs I had come to see. It is located in a big courtyard with a big tree in its center There is a long bike rack and offices looking out onto the courtyard. What more inspiration could one ask for?

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Wallpaper always manages to combine a selection of different yet equally beautiful designs:

Hands on Tray is part of Karen Chekerdjian’s “Archetype” collection. It is made of oxydised brass with a hollow palm. It’s your special secret friend that keeps your little items or jewelry safe for you.

The Pylon Chair is part of Tom Dixon’s “Veteran” Collection. While at first glance it may look like a sketchy 3D printed product, it is actually made out of lightweight steel and powder coated royal blue. With this chair, Dixon redefined the throne. Not only is it eye-catching, but it is stripped down to a chair’s basic elements of geometry and support.

The Celestial Bowl by L’objet is part of the “Tulum” Collection, it is inspired by the Mayan history and architecture and made of  pottery, with the spikes plated gold. The bowl looks like an exotic unique fruit itself, one would be transported to another universe in its presence.

The main scene during the first few days was Salone del Mobile where hundreds of young designers and design companies exhibited their work. Salone was certainly overwhelming where, literally, wherever you turn, there’s something to see.

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Magis, pictured above, never fails to deliver beautiful and intricate objects. Big Will, a table where the two front legs are wheels is an extendable table that can increase in size to accommodate more. Designer Phillippe Starck concealed the wheels with equal sized covers that continue to form the table itself. A small and simple gesture that altered the entire shape of the table making it elegant and just beautiful!

Officina is a selection of furniture by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Magis. The pieces are assembled with bent iron bars that look like they are defying the rules of joinery. This genius system reveals the confused and yet logical joinery and the beauty of the rugged material and the welding system used.

On the right, Ettore, by Konstantin Grcic for Magis, is a cast iron door stop shaped like an elegant geometric donkey sits on Spike, also by Grcic, a carrara marble minimal shelf held to the wall with a very obvious clamp reminding us of the beauty of an object in process at the workshop.

∗∗∗ Edra

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Margherita Chair * Edra

There was something about the Margherita chair that was so attractive that I could not help but grab a the photo. I imagined it to be there, standing alone, singularly, in an almost empty room -or seemingly empty in the presence of Margherita– and spreading its power and pride on all those who are present. It had such a beautiful presence that it reminded me of a beautiful throne, not to be competed with.

However, the best part of Salone was Salone Satellite, where young designers exhibited their designs in an attempt to promote them and give them exposure. This grouping of young talents allows for exchange, comparison and mostly inspiration.

∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ light 

The floor lamp was something that definitely caught my attention as it was not something that was ordinary or I had seen before. Unfortunately, I forgot who the designer was, but his enthusiasm and innovation seems hard to forget. In any case, is that not what designers offer to the world? products that make people’s lives better and outlive us? Our names will someday be forgotten, but our designs and what we offered to the world will definitely stay. Only time would tell. Anyways, kudos!

Lucid Lights by David Derksen Design does exactly what it aims to: confuse the viewer as to where the light is coming from. This simple perforated steel sheet elegantly conceals the source of the light and yet does exactly what it needs to; that is provide light.

Touch Light by Truly Truly approaches the traditional glass blowing technique from a new perspective. Working with the National Glass Museum in the Netherlands, they created a mold with adjustable pins to influence the glass being blown. This resulted in a product that had been formed by both nature and man, that is beautiful and elegant

Planet by Bentu Design, as every other product this house suggests, recycles ceramic waste that would otherwise end up in landfills and rivers. By transforming them into different products, Bentu aims at reusing and helping the environment in China. Photographed is Planet, a cool pendant lamp made to mimic the shape of planets as it provides us with light.

∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ tools

PlusMinus tool is designed to be both a useful object for every household, and at the same time, a work of art that you can place on your desk and show off. It is made of  polished stainless steel which can be playful, and actually useful if you had just finished lunch!

Ruler ON by JONO concepts uses the pattern of the milling machine to create the increments that signify the metric scale. A simple yet cool way of using machines and trials done at the workshop to create something both beautiful and efficient!

∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ Fit-niture

With the fast moving lifestyles we are leading today, this is the perfect solution! Not only does it save money, it saves space and time. I absolutely fell in love with this!

Fit-niture designed by Edmond Wong Studio offers a variety of household furniture that doubles as exercising tools. From the yoga ball stand that doubles as a light, to the chairs that double as lifting bars, it contains all the options! Pictured below is one of the Salone attendees trying out a pull-up on the chairs. Notice also the bench that can be used for bench presses in the background!

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∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ chair

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Trote * EINA

Another one of my favorites at Salone Sattelite is the Trote Chair designed by EINA from Spain. Based on the children’s game of the rocking horse, and coupled with today’s work methods, this chair allows the user to sit super comfortably and offers a space in the front where she can place her laptop, book or sketchbook and carry on working, blurring the space between work and play.

∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ plate 

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plates * fritz und franken

Another playful approach to our everyday life was offered by fritz und franken where the plates look like they have some leftover food stuck to them still, yet they constitute part of the whole. It’s like when your mom used to tell you to finish your plate as a kid so you grow up to design this! I can imagine these plates offered during a themed house party suggesting the food to be consumed.

∗∗∗ Salone Sattelite ∗ carpet

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Imagiro * EINA

And last but not least, is Imagiro. Imagiro is a modular carpet which can be modeled however the user likes. Similar to Origami, the carpet can take any shape we want, making it a playful environment for children and grownups altogether.

 

*end of part 1*

I am sure i missed so many of the beautiful things on display at Salone. However, I hope that with my humble and spontaneous post, I was able to at least create a vision of what was present during Salone, hoping to inspire, motivate and promote good and playful design.

Into the Dawn

To shed light on the issue of suicide, Embrace Fund organised a walk at 5AM on September 21, 2014 along one kilometer of the Beirut coast reaching Pigeon Rock marking the end of the walk.

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With Suicide still being a taboo topic in Lebanon, numbers were on the rise. In 2014, 1 person would commit suicide every 3 days. Starting from these numbers, a 3×1 rectangle contained the boundaries of the installation.

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The memorial wall was placed facing the Rock with which people could interact, placing photos of lost loved ones and leaving notes on its surface. The time-frame was one week; from the initial commission to the delivery.

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Pigeon Rock was the symbol for suicide in Beirut. So many people had chosen to end their agonizing lives there. Though a beautiful landmark in Beirut, one cannot but attach it to this tragedy.

The wall was made of recycled cardboard cylinders of different sizes and lengths. They linked together in a way that allows people to walk in between, place their candles, pin photos of their loved ones, and write encouraging words that lets others know they are not alone.

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On Embrace:

Embrace, an NGO affiliated with the American University of Beirut Medical Center continues to raise awareness of this dilemma and offers help to whoever is in need.

It aims to fight the stigma of mental illness and funds the necessary treatment for those suffering from mental illness and cannot afford its high costs, and it is currently working at phase II of a suicide hotline; the first in Lebanon and the Middle East.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental illness and need help, do not hesitate to contact them at the following number:  +961 1 350 000 Ext: 7828-5658

For more information, and for inspiring stories from others who have passed through this and found the way out:

http://embracefund.org/      http://embracefund.org/page/your-story

 

You are not alone.

 

 

The Labyrinth

The labyrinth is a playhouse designed specifically for the curious nature of the child. We want to accentuate that curiosity by inciting them to create, explore and be fearless.

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It combines different levels of exploration that would allow the child to crawl, climb, jump and make total use of the abilities and scale of her body in order to interact with the space.

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With the multiples approaches The Labyrinth offers, the child can choose to start whichever way she wants, allowing herself to create her own path within the wooden structure.

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Kantari Housing Units

This project came as a solution to the overpopulation that is on the rise in the city of Beirut. It provides studio apartments of the minimum living space needed by one person. In some cases, the apartments adopt double levels in case one is not enough spatially, light-wise, or circulation-wise. In other cases, an addition of only half a level is sufficient.

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South Elevation
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Horizontal section parallel to the main road

External circulation leads from one floor to the other. The first floor rests on piloti columns, allowing circulation to flow freely and establishing visual connection with the street. Circulation changes on each level due to change in apartment types.section-a.jpg

The tough location of the site -a deep block with no direct access from the main road and no proper lighting or ventilation- bore the following solution: narrowing the slabs of the four existing buildings to an average of 7 meters in width and adding similar slabs  for a total of 9 floors. Along these slabs are the box shaped apartments, connecting the newly added structures to the existing ones.

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Northwest view of model

Coppersmith’s House in China

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Based on Feng Shui concepts of space and the Chinese tradition of family and hierarchy, this brick house incorporates a copper-smith’s family home, a workspace, and an exhibition space, keeping a clear distinction between the public areas and the private ones.

The single floor building constitutes of two intertwined U units, where the private is engulfed by the public.

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Plan at +140 cm

The private unit is designed according to Feng Shui concepts of space and the familial hierarchy of traditional China accentuating the central courtyard and the distribution of the rooms around it. In addition, the screen at the entrance of the house was believed to keep out spirits from entering, and the furniture was designed and carefully placed to follow the same rules.

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Section DD

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The Southeast view showed the public entrance. More importantly, and along the main path on which the front facade sat, a long slit running through the main facade -made possible with the introduction of steel beams within the bricks- gave glimpses into the exhibition space inviting outsiders in.

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Southeast view – Public entrance

L’Orient

It is often that we take what we cherish most for granted, only to recognize that after someone points it out.

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After the passing of his grandfather in 1995, Camille started a long, unplanned, documentation of his family’s legacy – which he ultimately published in a book: Vitrine L’Orient in 2016. And so it happened that life was to unfold in that direction, immersing Camille deeper into his family’s history and bringing its grandeur to his attention. Around the year 1996, Camille’s father initiated the restoration of the Residence des Pins – which was eventually achieved by Tarazi family 80 years earlier. It was then, that, with the advocacy of the French architects, Camille realized the importance of the Tarazi legacy and the need to protect and develop it.

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Maison Tarazi has been based in Broumana since 1987, followed by the founding of their own workshop, also in Broumana, in 1995. After the publication of the book in 2016, and following its success, Maison Tarazi went on to initiate a new endeavour, at its new location in Beirut, a plan that came sooner than expected.

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outside view into Maison Tarazi with the reflection of the street

Maison Tarazi is located on a tight small street parallel to Mar Mikhael Main Street. It is surrounded by other local designers, restaurants, and a single small bookshop.

It’s beautiful how the reflection of the old Beiruti street is integrated with the orientalism of Maison Tarazi. It is as if the shop belongs there, in the heart of Beirut, carrying the tradition of this creative house and merging it with the buildings, the people, the noise, the lights.

The rectangular shop is a signature of the design talent of Maison Tarazi and the craftsmanship of the artists who give life to those designs. The designs include furniture, doors, ceiling corniche, tiles, room separators, and products. Camille tries to portray what Maison Tarazi is able to present to its clients, from oriental furniture to interior artwork, through the design of the shop itself and the exhibited items. It is a simple, yet, smart way to present oneself.

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The kitchenette/toilet backside of the shop designed with Maison Tarazi items

Other than the oriental artwork that Maison Tarazi crafts and that are exhibited in the shop, the house collaborates with new emerging designers to create new pieces with a more contemporary look. An example is the cakestand -pictured above to the left of the photo- done with designer Marc Dibeh.

Almost everything is handmade by local craftsmen. And that means carving, painting, and assembly. Other times, however, the use of machinery is deemed necessary. In any case, the process is a long to-and-fro dynamic between Camille and the craftsmen. Nothing is compromised for the sake of another but every detail is handled with the same care and attention.

During my visit, one of the craftsmen walked in to discuss an ongoing project. It so happened that this craftsman’s father had worked with Camille’s grandfather before him as well as his father Michel! This inheritance of skill coupled with meticulous design was very beautiful to experience.

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Camille with one of the craftsmen discussing an ongoing project

While Camille and the craftsman talked, I walked around the shop to look more closely at the pieces exhibited.

I looked up at the ceiling. It demonstrates the process of the ceiling design. From each side, one pattern starts from its inception as wooden pegs coming together to form two types of polygons to contouring and painting. A beautiful element added to the exchange between Camille and his customer is that they engage, as witnesses, in the process and level of detail that each piece entails prior to requesting its ownership.

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part of the celing exhibited at the shop

Even though we can all agree on the grandeur of oriental art and it being part of our heritage, few actually realize the amount of work and precision that goes into making it a reality. Seeing it exhibited would certainly make visitors understand and appreciate it.

The work of Maison Tarazi has been installed in both private houses, as well as restaurants and public spaces and galleries. They try to personalize their work, and not make it redundant or repetitive; and above all, they cater specifically to quality. The work is always one that combines the space in which it is to be installed, the material, the color, and the technique…

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A backlit wall installed musharabiya

It is important for the craft to progress with time, for no matter how valuable it might be, it should be able to be coupled with the contemporary feel in order to speak to everyone. Though the craft is still the same, using the same techniques and fabrication, it can benefit from new ideas as well, and that is what Maison Tarazi aims at doing today with the help of their craftsmen. To continue with this name into new paths and discoveries.

And though it carried different names across time: (1862 – 1926 : Au Musée Oriental- Dimitri Tarazi & fils, 1931 – 1987: Maison Tarazi – Alfred et Emile Tarazi & successeurs until finally in 1987 it got its name: Maison Tarazi which it still holds until now), the essence is still one; otherwise, it wouldn’t have succeeded in surviving the years until today.

The House has risen up, moved forward and adapted to the new life changes and needs while staying true to its character. Maison Tarazi was established in 1862 in Beiut, then opened branches in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Alexandria. After its bankruptcy, it reopened in Damascus, Rabat then Beirut in Ain Mreisseh. After 1987, it settled in Brumana -where it still is until today- and eventually Beirut in Mar Mikhael. During all this time, and since the 1800s, the work has been moving around, evolving, and developing into what it is today. (For a more thorough understanding of the history of Maison Tarazi, Vitrine L’Orient, – which is almost sold out from all libraries – gives it much more justice than I could ever explain in a few lines.)

And in a way, that makes it very similar to Beirut. It is a combination of everywhere it’s been, everyone who’s worked there, and the efforts and dedication of its masters. It is a history that is still evolving and adapting without losing its identity. It constantly invites newcomers to discover it and fall in love with it at first sight.

So welcome to Beirut, Maison Tarazi.

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passionate

It was by coincidence that I passed by Dehab Jewellery store on Saturday, though I had seen a post about an event by Egyptian jewelry master Azza Fahmy that was to happen there.

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trying out Azza Fahmy’s Twirling Dervish silver earring

 

Dehab is one of the unique jewelry shops to me. Though I do not consider myself to be a jewelry enthusiast per se (at least not as much as homeware products for example), I highly admire the jewelry making process and the well crafted pieces. And that is something I am sure to find at Dehab; since it is by Simone.

Simone Kosremelli was my teacher in architecture school at the American University of Beirut. And while I did have other inspirational teachers throughout my studies, Simone was the first that I considered as my mentor. It was her passion to share hers, and that is crafting spaces -different from just designing them. Other than just teaching me in classes, I also interned and worked part-time during my school years at her office. Even as a ‘boss’, Simone was teaching.

In Lebanon we do not have many well-known architects who are women. It is a field that had been dominated for a long time by men and I’m glad to see it changing now. My graduating year and the ones that followed had more female presence. And it is only in the recent years that I have started noticing that in different domains.

I do not know if that makes me a feminist. But I know I have always been an ‘equalist’-if that is even a word. I have always loved proving that I can do something which I have been told I cannot, and it inspires me to see other women doing the same and excelling! I guess being an Arab from the Middle East, attributed to Islam, and from a small village in the mountains of Lebanon makes this idea even more intense in my mind.

But it is not that easy. And anyway, nothing that is worth it ever is.

Being at the Azza Fahmy exhibition a few days ago brought back ideologies that I am very passionate about. What’s more is that I appreciate others who are passionate and who work from the heart to present beauty to the world and remind us of the little things; little things that are not so little.

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with Azza Fahmy, Simone Kosremelli and Nidal Achkar

Azza’s work first caught my attention a couple of years ago. Apart from their beauty, they carry an added value that is hard to explain but i will try to briefly and precisely gather my thoughts about this. Apart from the rich Egyptian culture that needs no introduction or explanation about its grandeur, the jewelry includes very well crafted designs. These designs are often adorned with sentimental sentences or lyrics from Um Koulthoum songs. The material, the craftsmanship and the sentiments, three directly proportional words that define Azza Fahmy’s work.

My favorite is a sentence carved on a wedding band: يا كل كلي ان لم تكن لي فمن لي

It was to my good fortune that when I visited Dehab, I met Nidal Achkar. Though I do not know her closely, i highly admire anyone who is keen on preserving our national artistic treasures. She was one of those who preserved Madina Theatre in Beirut, one of the only last few surviving theatres in Lebanon. Theatres and plays cater to a very specific audience, and though it’s growing, they faces a regular battle to preserve this culture.

These three women are participants in the creation of art and culture and they continue to inspire and touch others with their work. There are countless strong women that I have met that I admire and look up to. They are women who inspire me through their profession, through their strength and will of life, through hard work, or through their social actions that have affected millions. And I couldn’t be more proud that they exist to make this change.

In-herit

How does one write about something that words cannot contain? Where does she even begin? When did we stop being moved by spaces and the intensity in which they exist?

For this post, I chose to expose something more public than a piece of art. This one is of a much bigger scale and of greater importance as it affects all of us directly, our communal architectural heritage.

It is a term that has not been understood quite well, what it includes and why it is so important that we should protect it– and maybe even what we can learn from it and how we can introduce its techniques into our contemporary architecture.

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Photo from inside Hneine Palace in Kantari Street overlooking Clemenceau

This post has been very tough to write. Aiming at writing about the importance of heritage from a logical architect’s point of view, I realized I had no idea how to explain the importance of our traditional architecture in just a brief simple blog post — which is disappointing because I do have a good amount of knowledge of and experience in the subject.

It is the kind of knowledge that comes from having experienced first hand and personally, these abandoned spaces; to have walked through them discovering them like hidden treasures and most of the times becoming too overwhelmed by how much life had once filled that space, getting to know names and professions of people that had once called the now-destructed house a home, wondering if they are still alive — and if they were, then why hadn’t they come back to retrieve this treasure?

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Abandoned house in Achrafieh, Huvelin
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The most heartbreaking encounter in one of my visits was this car toy, found in an abandoned house on Monot street

You would imagine what was there and what could’ve been there had they not been torn asunder with time and war. Imagine a city that had protected its history and had made it a priority to sanctify those witnesses to our lives throughout the years! To try hard as an architect to be as sensitive as possible to spaces with years older than ours combined.

It is a kind of beauty that is impossible to copy, one that is unique to Beirut, its history, its people and their stories, its troubles, wars, deconstruction, and ultimately arbitrary reconstruction. A reconstruction that forgot the essence of beirut no matter how hard it tried to mimic it.

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castle on Basta street, Beirut

This is something that has happened to history since ancient times. The poorer houses were not the ones that have been saved or protected, but rather the more lush ones; therefore, neighborhoods were  destroyed and spaces between the houses — the actual witnesses of the daily life in the past — were erased. Not only are they important as aesthetic promenades in the city but also as present testimonies to the basic and sustainable life before technology. And that is something we, as architects and active members of the society, could learn from and should never take for granted.

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A courtyard that is shared by several houses in Achrafieh

Humans are mortal beings, but our buildings and what we leave behind will stay for generations to come and it is our responsibility to take care of our legacy.

The traditional Lebanese house was built according to our Mediterranean weather, climate, and its sun orientation. It made sure to give its residents a piece of beautiful and life-giving greenery. Almost every traditional house is accompanied by a small garden increasing our fresh air and adding secret gardens in Beirut. With the loss of these houses, and with the little to no public green spaces in Beirut, in addition to the garbage crisis, we find ourselves suffocating more and more in polluted air. This is only one small example of the heritage situation. All that we are left with are cool photography locations and event venues.

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A house within its garden in Kantari

Neighborhood quarters with a collection of traditional buildings are like open air museums. We have this possibility –now much less than before– to witness the architecture from the twenties on, admire, walk through, and get inspired by it. The main problem now is that we do not have neighborhoods anymore. They are either cut in half by proposed highways that were supposed to alleviate traffic and cater to the people, or high rises have been planted in between, making them all the more non-coherent.

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One of the iconic houses of Ain Mrayyseh demolished to make way to a new high rise

It is important to state that the high rises are a necessity with the development of our society and the increased need for them. However, it is even more important to create a building law that both caters to the people and protects its city. For a more thorough explanation of this basic outline, please download the following link: https://feaweb.aub.edu.lb/feasac/12/ . A paper discussing the relationship between architectural heritage, public transportation, and road planning under the name “Three Edges of a Triangle,” is to be found on page 55.

We have inherited this city. The word itself is self-explanatory. It is important that we take care of what our ancestors have passed on to us, which is what we will pass on to our children, and their children, and their children after them. This city is not ours. It belongs to the future, and without its past, the future does not exist.

KED

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KED is ‘river’ in Armenian

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.

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KED as seem from the U-turn towards Forum

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.

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At the entrance of KED hangs this poster explaining where KED originated from. (designed by BDW)

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.

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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.

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a collage of the designs exhibited at KED during design week 2016

What makes KED cool?

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KED’s Ground Floor sits 3 meters below sea level

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. 

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Even the unused elevator shaft was turned into an exhibition spot on each floor- that is not to say that the owners have disregarded disabled accessibility which is still being studied
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Workshop Room 1

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.

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Conference room looking over Workshop Room 1 with the terrace in between to the left
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The terrace on the first floor; the food court – located next to the conference spaces
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The Makers have left their imprint on the terrace with their “Power of the Nap addicts” furniture

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.

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The roof overlooking the sunset

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.