Middle Eastern design platform Carwan unveils an edgy new concept space in Beirut

Carwan has come a long way since its 2010 launch, when it was conceived as a design platform combining Levantine craft traditions with contemporary ideas. Founders Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte and Pascale Wakim initially created a pop-up gallery, exhibiting unique works they commissioned from various Middle Eastern designers. These pieces were handmade by Turkish and Lebanese artisans that Carwan paired with contemporary designers, in a bid to revive ancient traditions while rooting them in the present day.

The success of their venture encouraged the duo to open a permanent space in 2013 in Gefinor, in Ras Beirut, showcasing limited-edition home accessories they created in collaboration with the Middle East’s design luminaries, including Bernard Khoury, Nada Debs and Karen Chekerdjian, as well as international names like India Mahdavi and Michael Anastassiades.

October 2015 marked a new chapter for Carwan, as the gallery opened a new space in Beirut’s up-and-coming Karantina neighbourhood (having closed the Gefinor space a while back). The new gallery is set inside a massive industrial structure built in the 1930s and located along Lebanon’s Mediterranean coastline.

For their inaugural event, entitled purple, turquoise, pink (brown along the edges), which was co-curated with Actant Visuelle, Carwan is showcasing works by Belgian collective Rotor. The intriguing exhibition combines new commissioned works produced in Lebanon with other pieces previously presented at the Oslo Architecture Triennale, the Barbican Art Gallery in London and the Fondazione Prada in Milan. Most of the works are one-off pieces.

Polyethylene Pups by Rotor, photo: Filippo Bamberghi

Polyethylene Pups by Rotor, photo: Filippo Bamberghi

Pieces on display include two double flights of solid wood stairs in black stained beech, from the now closed Université du Val Benoît in Liège, Belgium, and PU droolings in foamed polyurethane, also from Belgium. One of the definite highlights of this inaugural show consists of a series of panels salvaged from ruins of the fishermen’s huts that once stood in Dalieh, across from Beirut’s landmark Raouché Pigeon Rocks. The huts were bulldozed by Lebanese authorities, in an attempt to privatise one of the country’s last remaining pieces of public land, in order to build expensive residential towers.

Like other Carwan and Rotor design works, these compelling objects are destined to make their way into private collections, adorning homes and making for powerful conversation pieces.