© 2019 by Abbas Sbeity


Role: Program Manager

Year: 2018

Location: Beirut, Lebanon

In 2018, Beirut Design Week (BDW) returned for its seventh edition themed “Design and the City”. Under this theme, designers were invited alongside activists, writers, educators, students, etc. to consider design’s transformative role in conceiving of the urban space in such ways that express our needs, desires, and dreams as inhabitants of the city.

“Design and the City” draws inspiration from local grass-root movements which redress questions of agency and representation vis-à-vis decision-making processes that have a direct influence on our lives. These movements provided alternatives for imagining inclusive models for the urban experience. While the viability of these models continues to be debated and explored in several spaces across the city, this theme offered its platform to showcase objects, tools, vocabularies, and processes that help create new itineraries for the everyday practice of place-making and reclaim the right to the city.


Design is in every aspect of our life. The endless list of possibilities in the design-scape is what constitutes and remakes our experiences. It calls upon all the creative designers to bring forward their own visions of how their practices can contribute to good governance, social inclusion and environmental justice.


How can architecture, furniture design or jewelry design collaborate with social workers to play a transformative role in the city?



How can a fashion designer or a documentary maker engage with nature and make us rethink our rapport to our environment?



How can the food and beverage industry adopt a design thinking approach that extends from the sourcing of the ingredients to the production of the goods, affecting local economies and contributing to the city’s environmental ecosystem?


How can architects, urbanists, and planners influence state policies related to the reconstruction of a post-war city? And share some lessons learned with other neighboring destroyed cities getting ready for reconstruction?



How can the tech-industries collaborate with designers to reimagine our daily interactions within the city and enhance our urban life? What can smart solutions offer to people who are abled or with special needs, women, children, etc?

In keeping with this notion, the BDW 2018 theme focused on searching for what is possible across the horizon of creative practice rather than dwelling on what already exists. It aspired to depart from the current city with its visible and invisible aspects, tangible and intangible realities, private and public spheres, towards an open ground for experimentation. It envisions an alternative shared future with better conditions to live, thrive, and engage.


By proposing this theme, BDW2018 asked the following questions: How can designers across the wide spectrum of the creative industry channel ideas and skills to model structures that address blind spots, shortages, and problems within the urban experience? And in what ways can they collaborate with other stakeholders (activists, environmentalists, artisans, entrepreneurs, agriculturalists, and food experts, technology consultants, and researchers, etc.) to face systemic and supplemental challenges?


The invitation extended to actors within and beyond the design community in Lebanon who are motivated by the necessity for urban change. By providing the conditions for experimental and strategic coalitions between designers and other experts, BDW introduced its new direction towards encouraging cross-disciplinary initiatives.


BDW was programmed as a participatory and community-led initiative, calling upon stakeholders to take an active part in the strategic planning, thematics, initiatives and educational programs which together will made the whole of BDW2018.



BDW has sought to adopt a participatory approach in all aspects of strategy, planning, and implementation. A new development in BDW’s organizational structure, this approach reflects its commitment to its own curatorial theme and culminated in an Open House event that took place on February 8, 2018, at antwork, Spears – Beirut.


The Open House invited designers alongside activists, writers, educators, students, etc. in order to present the theme and the possibilities it opens to deal with design for a new configuration of sociality that fulfills people’s aspirations and perceptions of good living, equal representation and social inclusion.


The Open House also aimed to expand on the questions that are posed by BDW this year and discuss their concrete applications in every aspect of the design practice. Offering an interactive platform for exchanging propositions and presenting ideas, the event enabled a dynamic that pushes the understanding of the idea of design towards solutions that respond to the current needs of social transformation. Additionally, practitioners and stakeholders were called on to take part in every aspect of organizing the Beirut Design Week for 2018.


Beirut Design Week has been growing to be the largest and fastest growing annual festival that brings together more than 300 creative entrepreneurs and SMEs from Lebanon and abroad to showcase their work and enjoys an audience of more than 25,000 attendees.

Every year, BDW launches a call for participation inviting the design community in Lebanon and abroad to take part in a week-long event putting participants at the forefront of the Lebanese contemporary Design scene and at the heart of a rich network of design enthusiasts, professionals, students, entrepreneurs, and partners who are interested in promoting local design.

Beirut Design Week call is open for all designers, studios, companies, and institutions who would like to organize an event to the public and showcase their contribution to the annual theme. The events could be open studios, exhibitions, talks, tours, workshops, etc.

BDW also supports independent designers and startups by launching independent calls for a curated exhibition targeting young designers.


Beirut Design Week launched three open calls with three main partners in 2018. The goal of the open calls was to provide more opportunities for designers to contribute to the program. In addition, partners took an important part in co-making the program.

UNIDO invited designers, artists, and architects to speculate on the relevance of public spaces in the cities of Al Mina (Tripoli), Northern Lebanon by investigating the public life of its citizens and developing small-scale urban interventions. The most promising concepts were to be produced together with local carpenters and tested during Beirut Design Week on site.

Two winning projects were produced and executed at the Vocational Training Center for Carpentry in Zgharta and tested during Beirut Design Week on site.
The first project was inspired by the seashell and waves that are well presented on Al Mina beach. While the second design inspiration comes from boat-hull construction used throughout many of the fishing and touring boats along Mina’s coast.



Meker called participants to envision the future of kitchens in 50 years by researching how kitchens were, how they’ve evolved, and imagining what they could become. The winning concept was to be produced in Meker’s Factory, revealed during Beirut Design Week, and exhibited in Meker’s main window display for a year.



BDW has joined forces with Adorno-an international digital gallery and sales platform for collectible design–and local manufacturing company Fabraca Studios, giving participating designers the chance to feature in Adorno’s first curated Beirut design collection, as well as technical and manufacturing support from Fabraca Studios.

BDW and ADORNO invited independent and upcoming designers and studio start-ups to submit proposals for unique small-scale production pieces or exclusive editions.

Our goal is to present the BDW audience with a variety of work that represents the breadth and character of design culture in Lebanon today–specifically work that makes a positive, life-enhancing contribution to homes or public spaces in city environments, and that embodies the spirit of collaboration and exchange that Beirut Design Week exists to promote.


Following the theme and focusing on the city as a platform, Beirut Design Week decentralized its event across venues and neighborhoods across the city and even beyond Beirut for the first time.


Beit Beirut is a cultural center and a museum in the heart of Beirut. The building was restored after being damaged by the conflict of the civil war. The museum hosted BDW's opening night where exhibitions were launched and hosted workshops and panel discussions. 


In addition to Beit Beirut, BDW built partnerships with key cultural actors in Beirut such as Dar el Nemer for Arts & Culture, the Goethe-Institut, Institut Francais, British Council, and other partners who played a role in building the program together.


For the first time, BDW got the support of the Municipality of Beirut as the main partner. With joining efforts with other partners like the AUB Neighborhood initiative, BDW took its events to the streets of Beirut.

Installations, urban interventions, workshops, tours, concerts, interactive experiences, and urban games, all took place on the streets inviting the public, beyond the design community, to engage with the program. These events took place in different parts of Beirut such as Jean d'Arc Street in Hamra, Mar Mikhael Parking Lot, and Badaro Street.

In addition, Beirut Design Week program is structured based on neighborhoods and districts in Beirut, inviting the audience to visit and engage with designers across the city. All events within a neighborhood are mapped and communicated in the program.


With the partnership of UNIDO, BDW organized a tour in Tripoli where the two public interventions were launched. The idea of decentralizing the event beyond the capital is to reach a wider audience of designers and students and create an exchange between the two biggest cities in Lebanon.








BDW communicates its program through three publications, a website, and a mobile app. 

The three publications present the theme, the team, the participants and partners, and the daily program.

Some text in this page was sourced and adapted from Beirut Design Week 2018 Feature Publication.

For more information visit www.beirutdesignweek.org