The Alchemist of Lebanese Design

The Alchemist of Lebanese Design


An upcoming exhibition on a Jungle Protocol, Tradition and Etiquette theme will help House of Today continue its support of emerging local talent, the project’s founder, Cherine Magrabi-Tayeb, explains



Now a key fixture on Lebanon’s design calendar, the House of Today’s biennial exhibition is fast approaching, amid rising anticipation for what has, to date, proved to be a hugely popular initiative.


Two previous editions, held in 2012 and 2014, were both major successes, although, as House of Today’s founder and the show’s curator, Cherine Magrabi-Tayeb, acknowledges, positive results can also produce challenges. “We did really well in the previous shows and that means people’s expectations are very high for this year,” she says. “We’re therefore working around the clock to make sure that the 2016 curated exhibition is even better.”


Big industry names are once again set to jet in for the curated exhibition. The renowned Italian architect and designer Massimiliano Locatelli, whose projects include huge retail stores for Jil Sander and Michael Kors, is the 2016 edition’s ambassador, while Nina Yashar, Milan’s top design dealer and owner of the famous Nilufar Gallery in Via della Spiga, is also planning a visit.




Locatelli will also be giving lectures on December 8th at Musée Sursock, as part of House of Today’s upcoming academic programme, together with representatives from the Norwegian-based architecture, interior design and brand design firm Snøhetta, which recently won a competition to design Banque Libano-Française’s new Beirut-based headquarters.


“We are expecting over 4000 visitors, ranging from designers and patrons to customers and educators - a real variety of movers and shakers from the international design scene,” Magrabi-Tayeb says.


The curated exhibitions are significant for House of Today in many ways. Aside from providing a platform for designers to showcase their work, they are also important fundraisers for the non-profit organisation, whose mission is to identify, showcase, nurture and connect emerging Lebanese talent.



While designers participating in the exhibition receive their share of proceeds from sales, the remaining funds are channelled back into the house’s system and used to promote Lebanese design in various ways. Its activities include providing scholarships for young talents and financing their participation at international events.


Like the past two initiatives, the 2016 exhibition will take place at Le Yacht Club in Beirut and has been organised on a theme. Titled Jungle Protocol Tradition & Etiquette, this year’s edition shines a spotlight on the relationship between flora and fauna.


Magrabi-Tayeb explains that the collections on show will see designers explore the way in which plant life and the animal kingdom work in synchrony and harmony, despite possessing individual properties and contrasting compositions.


“Beyond the chaos, there is something that binds us together,” she notes. “More broadly, it’s about understanding our behaviours and recognising that different cultures have different protocols and thought processes.”


The upcoming exhibition will showcase collections by 22 designers, chosen by a selection committee. Among those whose work will be featured are Rania Sarakbi, a self-taught painter and sculptor who divides her time between Beirut and Milan, and Stephanie Sayar and Garibeh Charbel, a young design team with a track record in interior, industrial and set design projects.



The designs showcase a broad range of creations crafted from a rich mix of unusual and avant-grade materials. Magrabi-Tayeb explains that in a new approach, the 2016 exhibition also features both “macro and micro” elements, with an added focus on smaller designs. Once the show closes, pieces will be available for sale online at the Wallpaper store.


A longtime admirer of the Lebanese design scene, Magri-Tayeb studied interior architecture at the Chelsea College of Arts in London and design at Inchbald School of Design, before moving to Lebanon with her family over a decade ago.


The daughter of the Egyptian-Saudi ophthalmologist Akef Magrabi and Lebanese-born Nada Samadi, Magrabi-Tayeb initially focused her attention on the family’s eyecare business, spearheading its rebranding exercise.


However, the wealth of artistic talent in Lebanon soon caught her eye and she was keen to become actively involved in promoting it. “I wanted to boost the support available to designers who were striving to make their mark, while also relaying the message that Lebanese designers are doing a great job,” she says.


House of Today was borne directly from that desire. Today, the organisation showcases a broad list of designers ranging from fashion giant Elie Saab and the architect Fadi Mansour to bright young fine-jewellery talent, Noor Fares.


It is evident that House of Today is quickly becoming a reference point for designers to launch and live out their dreams. “We have been able to match Lebanese designers with a wide variety of clients from around the world, thanks to the incredible support, generosity and love received from both the Lebanese and international community,” Magrabi-Tayeb says.


Jungle Protocol Tradition & Etiquette runs from December 7th - 29th at Le Yacht Club, Beirut, under the patronage of HE Lama Salam


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