A Little Wonderful Project

A new project titled “A Little Wonderland” is kicking off this Friday. The project, a collaborative effort between the “Geitawi On My Mind 2013” Festival, Paint Up’s Dihzahyners and Dispatch Beirut, will revolve around renovating an old home in the residential area of Ashrafieh. The team starts their work on the 8th- preparing it and creating the clean slate that will be open to public volunteers on March 22nd.


Lana Chukri, LAU Graphic Design graduate, is founder of Paint-Up, a group of proactive designers and artists on a mission to add color to Beirut. She recently gave a goosebump-inducing talk at TEDxLAU. Paint-Up are the ones to thank for all the snazzy staircases around the city.


Pamela Haydamous, AUB Landscaping Design graduate, founded Dispatch Beirut, the Beirut chapter of Jan Vormann’s idea of restoring a city using Legos.

Here’s an example of one of Dispatch’s projects last November:

To find out more about the Wonderland event, I contacted these two very inspiring young ladies – I’m lucky enough to call them my friends – to ask what this project is about. I also wanted to share some of their thoughts because they are perfect examples of how you can make a difference in your surroundings; all you have to do is try.

1.) What was the inspiration for the “A Little Wonderland” project?

LC: I feel we were inspired by the space itself – it seemed a perfect fit to recreate this home-like world and feel by bringing it back to life somehow. “A Little Wonderland” was just a descriptive way to package what wonder we felt this small forgotten space has and will have more of once we add our touch!

PH: Being in the space on a Sunday afternoon, we all felt a tiny breeze of memories, as if literally this house could open it’s door and an old lady would greet us with a cup of coffee. The inspiration for this project goes beyond only this space and house; it is a message to preserve the spirit of Beirut, which we all feel is slipping away right in front of our eyes. I know it’s a bit too poetic but seeing spaces like these being torn down to make way for lifeless skyscrapers is just too sad.

2.) Is there a design plan for the house or is it going to be a “blank canvas” where all volunteers can go wild?

LC: There is actually a design plan that the Crew have discussed thoroughly over the past few weeks and planned for. I feel the end product will speak for itself but the concept of the house is to revive it, bring some life to it, give it that essence – that it hasn’t been forgotten after all. That’s all I’m going to reveal for now!

PH: The design plan, as Lana said, is already set, but I’m sure there’s always room for the volunteers to leave their creative touches.

3.) Will the historic significance of Ashrafieh architecture be retained/emphasized in some way?

LC: I think the architecture is apparent and we aren’t changing it except to dress it in a brighter and more beautiful way. So yes, the elements of it will remain and we are staying true to the surroundings and build of the venue, the style and feel of it as well – but with our touches, of course, and little added things that will make it complete.

PH: The architecture in the house is its main attraction and the key rationale behind the project. We’re very keen on preserving it, it’s just getting the mini uplift that does it justice.

4.) What is to be of the house once it is completed?

LC: We will have to leave that up to nature, time, and whatever comes after we leave our mark on it. Let it inspire others, make someone smile, feel warmth, want to pull out a chair and have a nice afternoon outside it – who knows?!

PH: We really hope that the end product just sends happy vibes, a rush of memories; ideally motivates other people to follow the lead and preserve the few heritage spots we have left.

5.) You are currently working a full-time job while simultaneously handling the Paint-Up/Dispatch initiatives. How important are side-projects in one’s professional life?

LC: Having side-projects aren’t only important, they’re absolutely vital and necessary for every individual – designer or otherwise. We live in a day and age now where everything has been seen, done, experienced, everything’s mainstream and what’s new today is old tomorrow. Keep your day job for the experience and growth and patience it teaches you – and the income and financial independence. But keep your passions, your projects, and initiatives for yourself and the rest of the world – because it’s in those things that you truly reap the benefits of seeing your dreams come to life! I could go on forever about this because I am a workaholic in the office – so I’ll keep it short. Your side projects are what fuel your soul and your heart, and only through first-handedly inspiring others can you really stay inspired yourself.

PH: Wow! Side projects are where you really put yourself out there. You dare to be different and show the world that a little thought or initiative can really go a long way. As Lana said, we really live in a day and age where everything is so five minutes ago. The difference is where you actually take the idea to, how you recreate it as your own, and adapt it to your needs and your surroundings. Keeping a day job that feeds into your passion is definitely the best you can do- it shapes your thoughts, dreams and stretches your passion to its limits. Two things that I think are important here are:

1. The minute you feel too comfortable in your little bubble (that is your daily job, routine, friends and family) then you’re on the wrong track.

2. Always have a critic’s eye and always let your passion scare you to the point where you actually do something about it.

6.) What are the hurdles that you face when starting a new project and how do you tackle them?

LC: People, society, criticism, jealousy, and, in Beirut, public humiliation. If people don’t like what you do they’ll make it clear you fail or make sure you have hard time realizing your potential. But you have to kill the criticism with kindness. They show you disregard or hate, show them consideration and love tenfold – then they’ll truly stand by your side in your time of need. In return, you would’ve really moved someone and changed their life and perspective!

PH: When it comes to Dispatch Beirut, we faced quite a few issues mainly in communicating our idea and making other people believe in it as much as we do. It all started as our way to express our critical point of view towards the city, as we love to see it at its best. Our installations consist of building and restructuring broken walls, facades, mainly “rebuilding Beirut” bottom up. So it was a tough task to get permits and all the legal documents. We faced a few issues with the ISF and a few locals, who had dismantled a few of our installations. But we believe that when our installations are placed in the public realm, then any reaction from the public is just other people’s way of expressing their ideas and thoughts too. Democracy at its best!

7.) What’s your advice to young people looking to add a little spark to their life?

LC: If you have an idea, a passion, a dream, just really get out there and try it in any way possible – don’t think about money, power, fame, or all the rest of the pretentiousness that people waste their time and energy on. Inspire others. Write, draw, run, paint, build, share everything with the world that you possibly can – and do not, in any way be scared of rejection. Wear your heart on your sleeve. And get off YouTube and 9Gag and these crappy televised things that don’t give you any form of knowledge, drive, and inspiration! Watch great films, read great books, travel, browse blogs, and animations that are inspirational, create a blog yourself, go to exhibitions and events and get exposed and only then will feel that surge of excitement to expose others to your own passions too! Lastly, exhaust yourself. And be happy and fulfilled doing it because you’re only young once. Right here, right now is your time!

PH: A trick that always inspires me is to try something new, a new road to work, a new alleyway to get lost in, new music, new people… It’s crazy what exploring new options can do to your brain. And the second you are able to close your eyes and imagine your idea come to life; that’s your cue to go ahead and make it happen. It might turn out to be the worst idea in the world and still you would feel satisfied enough that you tried it out. Pick up from there, explore other options and keep trying until you get it just right. Most of all, stay on the lookout for inspiration anywhere around you, always carry a little sketchbook to jot down or draw ideas (or you would end up having a pile of diner napkins fully scribbled on just like me) and always believe that only you can make your dreams come to life.

Hope to see you all there on the 22nd 🙂

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