Karim Chaya-Beirut Rock Center

On December 1st , the Beirut Art Center was bustling with energy. Upstairs, or in the Lebanese designers space, took place an exhibition of rocking chairs. Among the crowd, a man in a white-shirt invited people to sit on the chairs to discover them. The man was Karim Chaya, whose creations filled the space, inside and outside! The day was the opening of his exhibition, “Beirut Rock Center.” .

Karim Chaaya grew up in Beirut and studied Industrial Design at Rhode Island School of Design in the United States.

Growing up, he remembers watching his father “always working with his hands… He did things and made us do things and fix things and change things…” Yet, his father also “taught [him] to use [his] eyes before using [his] hands”, a philosophy he applies to design to this day.

His university training imparted him a very hands-on approach to design, reminiscent of Bauhaus methods, where, “before you learn how to design a chair or table you have to know how to make it. You have to know materials, methods, machines, and techniques.” His final graduation project is his beloved metal chair.

A staunch environmentalist, Chaya is pessimistic about the relationship between Man and Nature in Lebanon. “I care about this small piece of land and think about how much we torture it, which is a lot. Because we think we have more pressing issues to deal with, social, and mostly political, we tend to think that the environment can wait. But what we’re doing on a day to day basis is irreversible unfortunately.” Chaya collaborates with several environmentally-minded NGOs to raise awareness about these issues. (He cites, for instance, his brother Maxime’s initiative, Think Green, which raises awareness about garbage disposal all over the Lebanese territory.) In his design practice, Chaya tries to recycle as much as possible and takes care not to pollute water by dumping chemicals down drains. He promotes recycling and does not use products or material that do not comply with environmental regulations.

That’s as far as Chaya will go when it comes to mission statements. In practice, he prefers to “just go with the flow,” in particular when it comes to his design company, (Spockdesign), which creates furniture and lighting, amongst other products. He enjoys taking his time “rather than being pushed around by deadlines,” and is grateful for the latitude he has to choose his projects: “My clients are my friends so far and I’m happy with that for now [since] we want to have fun with design and follow our gut instinct.”

When creating, Chaya follows a discipline more than a specific method, explaining, “there’s no starting point or end point. I think the biggest secret in design is learning when to stop. But I don’t think I’ve ever reached a point in a project where I consciously said, It’s done.” His innate curiosity leads him to experiment a great deal with materials and techniques: he uses “all kinds of metal, wood, leather… less plastic because there’s a shortage of good sources … I haven’t used ceramics or porcelain yet but that’s something I think about often.”

Since a young age, he has been fascinated with the idea of rocking, and with chairs. It thus comes as no surprise he designed a rocking chair, whose creaking and rhythm entrance him. Chaya’s interest in rhythm leads him to observe it everywhere in the universe and acknowledge its significance, from the elegance of astronomy to the hypnotizing chants of many religions. The chair’s rocking is therapeutic, “it’s a moment to disconnect with everything [and] clear your mind as much as possible, which is a really difficult thing but essential.” Karim Chaya, or how to take your time.

React-to-it game

Le Corbusier = drawing

Mies Van der Rohe = heavy

Philip Starck = not for me

Antonio Gaudi = wooow

Charles Rennie Macintosh = no

Eileen Gray = respect

Ron Arad – acquaintance

Nada Debs = sentimental

Atelier S/Z = friend

ACID = work

Karim Rachid = teacher

Food = YES

Influence = maybe

Movie = not enough

Chair = more to come

Color = blue

Sound = silence

Sports = not enough

Shape = circle

Country = lost

Music = whatever I feel like

Artist = sometimes

Memory = too many

Place = here and now

Material = whatever it takes

Plastic = if need be

Wood = peaceful

Dream = memory

Technique = whatever it takes

Book = as many as possible

Clothes = the minimum

For the current exhibition, Chaya designed more than 20 models of chairs. You can see them at the Beirut Art Center, second floor, jisr el wati, until January 21st 2012.


About Ranine El-Homsi

Interior architect-designer-artist art critic-blogger Cultural mediator-interest in bringing kids to art Nature, art & food lover View all posts by Ranine El-Homsi

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