The Beirut Concept Store was designed to shed light on the country’s talent, capabilities and possibilities.

Dubai Design Week wrapped up its seventh and most comprehensive edition. Despite the challenges including a global pandemic, it can still be described as a highly successful and inspiring show.

Dubai Design Week

An emblematic affair, this year’s captivating line-up reaffirmed Dubai’s role as an important hub for design and creativity for the region and beyond. 

The main highlight was The Beirut Concept Store at Downtown Design, the region’s leading fair for high-end and quality design. It was curated under the theme ‘I left my heart in Beirut’, by Mariana Wehbe, a Lebanese design expert.

An experimental journey into the heart of Beirut’s design scene, it was a celebration of the resilient spirit and works of 20 established designers, emerging creatives, and design houses based in Lebanon. A hybrid retail store and a place for commercial opportunities, it carried an eclectic collection of furniture, ceramics, digital production, art, gifts, and books.  

Still reeling from the tragic bomb explosion last year at the port, these talented individuals worked against all odds to continue to showcase the beauty and talent within their torn nation. They persisted despite social, political, and economic turbulence, and produced work using the limited resources that they had access to. 

The physical space was deliberately designed in a chaotic manner to reflect Beirut’s current state. Rumi Dalle’s installation titled “Pillows of Dreams,” consisted of dozens of printed pillows piled upon each other and made with materials sourced from local homes dating back to the 1950s. A touching tribute meant to draw attention to the emotional turmoil of these families over the years, while somehow still maintaining a sense of warmth and cosiness about it.  

Rumi Dalle’s “Pillows of Dreams”

Adrian Pepe’s eye-catching textile piece ‘Entangled Matters’ was constructed with an ancient animal fiber: Awassi wool, bred in the Levant region for over five-thousand years. Through the process of spinning, hand-guided embroidery, and felting, the wool is transformed into material artifacts laden with perspiration, emotions, mythologies, and symbolism. The work awakens a dormant instinct of a more tangible understanding of nature during this moment of global fragility and invites us to search for answers from a more integrated perspective. Ultimately serving a reminder that, historically, it has been in times of crisis that humans have found more freedom and clarity, exploring the realm of possibility to creatively shift their perspective towards a better future. 

Adrian Pepe and ‘Entangled Matters’

The Exil Collective, a design incubator promoting independent Lebanese designers, was represented on a beautifully constructed four-metre table called ‘Untitled’ by architect Samer Bou Rjeily. Made with a 200-year-old pine tree trunk, uprooted during a severe storm, invokes the idea of giving life to that which is already dead. Bou Rjeily used a Japanese technique ‘,shou sugi ban,’ to preserve the wood by burning it many times to ensure as little waste as possible.

Ceramist Nathalie Khayat’s handmade candle holder from the collection titled ‘A Lover’s discourse’ was structural yet functional. The piece deconstructs over time without eliminating its function or promise of gathering and ceremony. Made to hold a flame, it evokes a sense of what is yet to come. Candles are lit and melt along the shape of the object and shadows caress the curves. Through that process, the object becomes a witness of precious times.

Ceramist Nathalie Khayat’s candle holder from ‘A Lover’s discourse’

The Beirut Concept Store was a standout space amongst the 150 international brands and designers, like Grohe from Germany, Lasvit from Czech Republic, and Lladró from Spain. Housed within a purpose-built tent, it was made by creatives who are fighting for their home through their creativity. 

Words by: Saira Malik

Images courtesy of: Adrian Pepe, Dubai Design Week, Marianne Wehbhe, and Saira Malik

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