Few cities inspire as much praise and as much criticism as Beirut. A site of endless beauty and possibility but also a place marked by its disappointments and failures, Beirut is nothing if not a contradiction. This year’s BDW Talks will take Beirut’s many contradictions as serious points of inquiry. Looking at the many ways in which the city, through its services and its built environment, shapes our urban existence, we will ask how design might make Beirut a better, more welcoming place. Exploring topics as diverse as immigration, public services, and education, this year’s edition of BDW Talks asks not what the city is but rather what it could become. 


Friday, June 22 
5 PM - 7 PM 
Beit Beirut, Sodeco 

Around the world, especially in Western Europe, design has assumed a prominent role in governance and public services. In these contexts, designers develop public services, consult, and train government employees as well as design solutions to social problems. Not only has this move validated design as a serious approach to problem-solving, it has also made for a more efficient and better-serving public sector, especially in urban spaces. The public sector in Lebanon stands to learn a great deal from this model, especially because the collaboration inherent to the design process resonates a great deal with Lebanese culture. In this panel, we will begin the work of putting design and governance into conversation to see how such an approach might yield improved social services, impact political processes, and help community development initiatives.


Joanna Choukeir 
Joanna is Design Director and board member at Uscreates – the first socially focused design agency to set up in London back in 2005. She is a social designer, author, speaker and lecturer with over 15 years of practical experience in the UK, the Middle East and the United States. She leads on the development and delivery of service design, user centred innovation, design research, service business modelling, communication and digital design projects. Joanna has worked with over 50 public and third sector organisations in the UK – including Nesta, The Healthy London Partnership, the Health Foundation, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Macmillan – to help them use a design approach to better understand and address their challenges. She has expertise across a broad range of social challenges including: health and wellbeing, social integration, social action, employment, education and social enterprise. Joanna has a Ph.D. in design for social integration and is an RSA fellow. She is an associate lecturer at the University of the Arts London, Kingston University and Ravensbourne University, and a peer reviewer  for She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation.

Mona Hallak
Mona El Hallak is an architect and heritage preservation activist, currently the director of the AUB Neighborhood Initiative whose aim is to support Ras Beirut’s livability, vitality and diversity, while promoting critical citizenship among the AUB community. She led several campaigns and succeeded in the preservation of the Barakat Building - now Beit Beirut, the museum of memory of the city. She is an active member of Beirut Madinati, a political movement that started as an electoral campaign for the 2016 Beirut municipal elections; and a founding member of two NGOs: IRAB for the preservation of the Arab world’s musical heritage; and ZAKIRA for promoting photography and its role in documenting and preserving memory. In 2013, she was given the Ordre National du Mérite au grade de Chevalier from the French Republic in recognition of her achievements in preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of Beirut.

Katrie Lowe
Katrie Lowe is an Australian Chartered Civil Engineer, with over seven years’ experience working in the water and urban development industry. Committed to fostering a bolder conversation about the future of our cities, Katrie launched Urban CurioCity, a two year global research endeavour, which has seen her live in key cities around the world and conduct interviews with local changemakers to document the innovations being developed to tackle the world’s five big urban challenges: Density, Affordability, Liveability, Sustainability and Technology. In support of her research, Katrie was awarded the 2016 UDIA NSW Roy Sheargold Scholarship. You can follow her blog and research findings on the website -

Tanja Rosenqvist
Tanja Rosenqvist is a designer and researcher working in the fields of international development and governance. She recently finished a transdisciplinary PhD exploring the use of design as a means for questioning and rethinking the governance of urban sanitation services in low-income urban communities in Indonesia. Her research highlights a need for designers to engage more consciously with governance and the societal norms and values that underpin governance processes. 


Saturday, June 23
5 PM - 7 PM 
Dar El Nimer for Arts & Culture

Cities are destinations. Since at least the 18th century, it has been nearly impossible to imagine the city without also considering urban migration as one of its central concerns. Internal displacement, industrialization, and subsequent wars have historically driven diverse populations into urban centers around the world, as they seek employment, sanctuary, and upward mobility. Today that pattern continues in greater force than ever. Statistics show that there are currently 65 million people who have been forced from their homes, and over one-third of them are considered refugees. Taking Beirut as a case study, in this panel, we will consider how design can help cities not just react to the crisis of immigration but instead prepare for the arrival of new city-dwellers. We will look at how refugees have been integrated into the city through formal structures and institutions, and propose ways in which new systems, products, and services might develop a culture of inclusivity, wherein refugees, immigrants, and transitory populations are not a burden but rather contribute to their own wellbeing and to the urban environments they inhabit. By addressing the central question of how we can design cities for the arrival of new populations, we will address larger concerns in design history and theory about cultural values, participatory methodologies, and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) infrastructures. 


Salwa Jabri
Salwa Al Kawas Al Jabri has dedicated over 40 years in social development first through the field of architecture and construction where setting high execution standards was central, moving to her recent focus on education and equipping young Syrians to excel in spite refuge. Since 2013, and in partnership, she has co-established five schools in the Beqaa facilitating education to 3000+ children providing a holistic approach to child development inclusive of programs such as trauma therapy, choir singing, and medical checkups. Opportunities are also facilitated to excelling children to continue education with the involvement of the likes of Kings college, UK. Salwa strives to evolve human beings and urban spaces to the best of their potential with precision, commitment and perseverance. 

Daniel Kerber
Daniel is the Founder and CEO of MORE THAN SHELTERS (MTS), a pioneer in the humanitarian innovation field that pushes the boundaries of current practices to scale greater impact. For more than 15 years Daniel has been working and researching at the interface between planning, architecture, and design with deprived communities in slums and refugee camps. His initiative MTS has become one of the leading European organizations to incorporate cutting-edge product, socialand ecosystem design into the humanitarian context. Over the last years, MORE THAN SHELTERS has successfully implemented pioneering projects in Jordanian refugee camps, on European transit routes and arrival centers in Germany. As a recognition of his great achievements and outstanding contributions, Daniel has received numerous awards from the Federal Government of Germany and from leading foundations such as ZEIT Foundation (World Changers Award 2014), BMW Foundation (Responsible Leaders Award 2015) and UN Women (Empower Women’s 2016-2017 Champion for Change). In 2017 Daniel was also awarded the Ashoka Fellowship. Prior to his involvement in humanitarian innovations, Daniel worked as an artist and had exhibitions and publications worldwide. He also taught social design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg, Germany and when time permits still lectures in different contexts. 

Joseph Rustom
Joseph Rustom is a conservation architect, urban planner, scholar, and educator. He holds a doctoral degree in urban planning from the Brandenburg University of Technology in Germany and master’s degrees in architecture from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA), in cultural heritage preservation from the Marc Bloch University - Strasbourg, and in urban archaeology from the François Rabelais University - Tours. He was research fellow of prestigious institutions like the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Forum Transregionale Studien – Berlin, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). He is currently assistant professor and academic assistant dean at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (ALBA) – University of Balamand.

Dounia Salamé
Dounia Salamé is a researcher and the coordinator of the Social Justice and the City program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. The Social Justice and the City aims to formulate an agenda for urban research and exchanges in partnerships between scholars, policy-makers, and activists in Lebanon (and beyond) working towards more inclusive cities. Over the past two years, the program has worked on questions of housing, urban renewal, public and shared spaces, forced population displacement, urban social movements, and more. For a full description of the program’s positions and some recent events, please visit:

Elizabeth Saleh
Elizabeth Saleh works in the fields of political and economic anthropology, with a special focus on labor and gender. She obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her doctoral research examined the entrepreneurial strategies of wine elites as they converged in the Kefraya region of the Bekaa Valley. In 2015, Elizabeth commenced a new ethnographic study examining the reconfiguration of Syrian labor at the interface between Beirut's formal and informal economies. Most of her fieldwork takes place at a small scrapyard, where she explores the effects of the Syria conflict and policies of the Lebanese state toward migration, labor, the city and waste management in relation to the prosperity of the scrap metal industry. She is currently affiliated to SOAM at AUB. She is also grantee holder of the Arab Council for Social Sciences Research Grant.


Monday, June 25
5 PM - 7 PM
Beit Beirut, Sodeco

The aim of this panel is to initiate a series of conversations about the role of university-level design programs in addressing the needs of the cities. While higher education is one of the largest industries in Lebanon, institutional structures have sometimes made collaboration difficult. This panel will overcome these limitations by bringing together design program administrators to have a conversation about how undergraduate and graduate design programs in a variety of disciplines envision their relationship to the cities they inhabit. How might the design education community advocate for design as a whole in Beirut? What pedagogical practices are unique to the design disciplines? To what extent should design programs prepare students for a job market, and to what extent should they prepare students to engage with larger social issues? What is the role of the higher education in determining what Lebanese design is in the first place? How should design schools shape or intervene in the communities around them? These questions will serve as a launching point for a larger discussion about what design education can and should be doing in Beirut and its neighboring cities. 


Mariano Alesandro
Mariano is looking into the future’s horizon, analysing how the designs in INDEX: Award's pipeline work together, identifying design trends, the drivers of change behind them, and how they can help solving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

INDEX: Design to Improve Life
INDEX: Design to Improve Life® is a Danish NPO with global reach. We Inspire, Educate and Engage in designing sustainable solutions to global challenges.
We Inspire by showing people how their personal lives and the lives of people around them can be improved by Design to Improve Life. We do this through INDEX: Award, the biggest design award in the world, worth €500.000 and widely recognized as the most important design award in the world. INDEX: Award showcases the positive outcome and effect of the world’s best examples of Design to Improve Life addressing important issues such as clean water, education, energy production, overpopulation, elderly care, etc.
We Educate by using real-life challenges as learning resources in schools and the talents of school as a resource for society. We do this through Design to Improve Life Education, where we put structured creativity on the learning agenda and educate students, teachers, educators and decision makers to create sustainable solutions through a certified education curriculum and design competitions.
We Engage by using our Design to Improve Life Investment program, working as a connector between designers and investors – helping them realize sustainable design with the potential to solve global challenges. Our aim with the program is to bring as many Design to Improve Life solutions as possible to their full potential, in order to foster positive impact in the world.

Carla Aramouny
Carla Aramouny is an architect and assistant professor at the American University of Beirut, Department of Architecture and Design (ArD), where she currently holds the position of Architecture coordinator. She has a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Lebanese American University.  Prior to joining AUB, Carla practiced architecture in several renowned offices in Beirut and New York, and now runs her own practice in parallel to her academic work. Her research and teaching involve new material and digital techniques in design, with an interest in themes of locality, landscape morphologies, and architecture hybridity. At ArD, Carla founded and is currently the director of the ArD Tech Lab, a digital design and fabrication unit, bringing advanced fabrication and research resources to the students. She has organized the yearly lecture-based event Talk20 at ArD, and more recently the Beirut Global Summer School program (GSS Beirut) in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), in Spain.

Melissa Plourde Khoury
Melissa Plourde Khoury is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Art and Design at the Lebanese American University. She specializes in teaching design fundamentals, publication design, design history and visual culture. She holds an MFA from Boston University and a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design in graphic design. Her research interests currently focus on Lebanese visual culture and design education. Her writings have been published in international journals on design and presented at various conferences. She currently chairs a committee that is working towards NASAD (The National Association of Schools of Art and Design) accreditation at LAU and has extensive experience related to design curriculum and pedagogy.