K A R A J (n.) = Arabic transliteration of garage;
(1) an auto repair shop open to the street where men congregate to drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, play backgammon and learn about the latest neighborhood scandals. Also, a place to ask for directions and change, and maybe even fix cars.
(2) a lab space open to artists, techies, designers, and architects (not just men!) to tinker, prototype, and hear the latest transdisciplinary gossip. Also, a place to find collaborators, contribute to a creative community and change things up.
If you knew you liked Karaj, but didn’t really know why… If you were interested in Karaj activities but haven’t been part of them… If you’re intrigued by the Karaj buzz and want a sneak peak, watch this teaser with a view of a great 2011!
Karaj is Beirut’s first non-profit media lab for experimental arts, architecture and technology.
As a unique transdisciplinary platform in the Middle East, Karaj will forge a community of DIY and opensource creators who will channel local frustrations into productive and creative experiences. Karaj will become an active node on an international network of labs, with a larger goal of advancing Lebanon and the Arab World as a region at the forefront of creativity, technological innovation, and democratic change.
Karaj will shake things up. We are challenging Beirut’s image as a glamorous party scene and working to make our city a glittering hotbed of hands-on innovation and to boost its role as the creative capital of the Middle East.
Karaj is changing the game. Our space, programs and residents will playfully challenge the status quo of the commercialized art world, nudge the disciplinary boundaries of academia, and embrace both industry and education. By offering a cross-industry and cross-disciplinary model for making, learning and sharing, we will reach out to young people to offer an alternative education beyond of the confines of traditional, often inaccessible schools and universities. As a result, we will build a local learning culture centered on collaboration.
Karaj will make it, not buy it. In contrast to our consumption-driven lifestyles and those of the cities around us, we will activate Beirut as a hub for DIY prototyping and experimenting. Karaj will be an experimental tech space where bottom-up design ideas can be rapidly prototyped, tested on a city-scale, and have the potential to directly impact and respond to the urgent development context of the City and the Region.
Karaj, not just for men. We want to empower all people – men and women alike – to become active creators of technology, not just passive consumers. In particular, Karaj will encourage women to be active participants and leaders in the creative technology field, and in this way, contribute on a larger scale towards opening equal professional and creative opportunities for women in Lebanon.
Karaj will iterate it. Beirut is an ideal lab space. The City contains a broad spectrum of demographic concentrations, spanning diverse ethnicities, cultures, social classes, lifestyles, and ages. The City also lacks regulations of public space, which can work to the advantage of DIY, guerilla and interventionist tactics. In the context of limited manufacturing infrastructure and access to imports, there is an organic DIY culture and practice that already exists out of necessity.Karaj will keep it going. We define sustainability as a mix of appreciation for local culture, preservation of architectural heritage, and an eco-consciousness integration of technology. On this premise, Karaj will update inherently-sustainable local crafting traditions and favor re-appropriation, remixing, and reuse. The projects we develop and support will tackle issues such as water contamination, waste disposal, and the rehabilitation of natural systems augmented through technology.
Karaj is bringing it back. Although Beirut is the Middle East’s creative capital, the City lacks incentives and opportunities for creative professionals of the Lebanese diaspora to return and for young people to stay. Karaj fills a critical need in the City and the Region to nurture young and emerging artists, architects and technologists by generating a new environment of exciting creative opportunities that are rooted in a local context and framed in an international sphere. Our space, program and residents will catalyze a local learning and making environment that broadens the horizons of youth, emboldens them to craft their own professions and encourages them to work locally.
Karaj is located in a historic Lebanese house in Mar Mikhayel, a neighborhood that is home to young arts and non-profit organizations, galleries and emerging designers. Amidst rapid gentrification and rampant real estate crimes, Karaj takes a pro-active stance in support of architectural and cultural preservation. The layout of the space follows the traditional Ottoman typology, with four rooms organized around a central court (diwan – ديوان) for workshops, performances, and lectures. Behind the beautiful stone arches, sits the liwan (ليوان), a meeting room that can accommodate up to 10 people. Karaj has high ceilings, lots of natural light, triple-arch windows, and a garden for social gatherings and summer parties under our newly planted grape vine (arisheh – عريشه). Karaj is furnished with original Art Deco and vintage pieces that we’ve collected over the years.
For information about renting the space, please see the rental page.
Karaj hosts public events, exhibits and workshops at its space in Mar Mikhayel, and also stages interventions around the City. Our workshops are open to the public and are opportunities for local and visiting artists, designers and technologists to engage with local communities, students and to forge new collaborations with local practioners. Our recent public programming includes hosting a Creative Commons salon, a Global Entrepreneurship Week networking event, and workshops for the UFA Urban Facade Projection competition. To propose programs and collaborations, contact us here.
Also, there are event and exhibition spaces in the main gathering room and outdoor patio and garden that are available to rent for lectures, photo shoots and other private events. If you are interested in renting the space, click here.
In the summer of 2011, Karaj will launch an internship program in collaboration with the Design and Technology MFA program at Parsons School of Design and the Graduate Program for International Affairs at The New School.
Students from these multidisciplinary programs will be based at Karaj and work in collaboration with local creative professionals to prototype new media and DIY technology for Beirut. They will also lead workshops that contribute towards building the skill sets of local students and other the local community exposure to creative projects using DIY technology and opensource platforms in an international context.
To become an intern at Karaj, visit the Join Karaj! page
For details about current and former residents, members, interns and other Karaj contributors please visit the People page
KARAJ is a place for emerging and established artists, techies, designers, and architects to tinker, prototype, and hear the latest transdisciplinary gossip. In this spirit, we invite you to collaboratively contribute to our creative community and change things up for the better. To find out how you can collaborate with Karaj, visit the Join Karaj page