News from the Middle East - The House of Today
Interview with Cherine Magrabi Tayeb, the founder of the non-profit platform House of Today.
by Daniele Belleri
Until not long ago, Lebanon was almost completely absent from the international design scene. As a result of serious internal political turmoil, some of the most talented designers were forced to migrate to be able to pursue their vocation. But in recent years the situation has begun to change. Today in Beirut the signs of a creative renaissance are evident. The local Design Week has already had four editions, but the credit also goes to the House of Today, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to discovering emerging professionals, offering scholarships for students, organizing exhibitions, and networking to support the activities of young designers in the Middle East.
The Lebanese designer Cherine Magrabi Tayeb, with a long professional experience matured in London, is the director of this organization since 2012. We spoke to her over the phone to learn more about the organization she runs, future plans and how design is changing for the better the image of her country which has greatly suffered in the past.
A: What are, according to you, the distinctive traits of the Lebanese design?
CMT: The Lebanese design is characterized by a great mix of cultures. This international influence is not only a result of our geographical position, but also of the fact that during the war years, many of our designers studied abroad in countries like France, Italy and Japan. And this can be noticed in their work, often done with a touch of irony.But in general, Lebanon is still a virgin land when it comes to industrial design. There is already a strong interest in the design of jewelry, fashion and the art world. When it comes to product design, our workis also educational.
A: House of Today is a platform dedicated to supporting design, but you also actively support the art of craftsmanship. What are the main challenges in this field?
CMT: The work with the artisans is essential for our designers, especially when they use wood or metal for which Lebanon is particularly known for. However, there is a growing risk that traditional craftsmanship could disappear altogether in the coming years.The main challenge our artisans are facing now is about learning how to be more flexible and business savvy.This is the only way they can survive and prosper, as we have seen happen in Italy.
About the author Daniele Belleri is a journalist interested in design and geopolitics. A former researcher at Moscow’s Strelka Institute, he is a partner of Granger Press creative agency. His reports have appeared on more than thirty media in five countries, including Afisha, Corriere della Sera, Domus, IL Magazine, Reuters, Volume, Wired Italia.