LEGO Mania Spreads to Lebanon’s Crumbling Capital

LEGO, Beirut, urban intervention, design, pollution, artWe are in the midst of a global obsession with LEGO building blocks. No longer strictly a childhood toy, these colorful plastic blocks designed by Denmark’s Kristiansen family in the 1930s are popping up everywhere: corporations are building the tallest this and that in order to market their products and artists are using them to revitalize decaying urban environments.

Now the phenomenon has reached Beirut – that sprawling concrete jungle populated by precarious buildings. One such structure collapsed earlier this year, killing more than a dozen people. Clearly this is more than just a cosmetic issue, and the street art collective Dispatch Beirut has decided to do something about it.

Sprucing up Beirut

Lea Tasso and Pamela Haydamous are the brains behind Dispatch Beirut, which is an extension of the Dispatchrok movement founded by German artist Jan Vormann several years ago.

Graphic and landscape designers, respectively, the duo have spruced up several decaying spaces throughout Beirut since founding their initiative, including in Hamra, Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael, and Ashrafieh.

Tasso told Lebanon’s Daily Star that they have had some interesting responses to their project.

“Once, some old ladies walked past. They thought we were just playing. They said, ‘Haram, people will steal your LEGO,’” she said.

In addition to filling in war-scarred walls and torn-up sidewalks, Tasso and Haydamous have plans to create a larger, permanent installation that will encourage public participation.

LEGO, Beirut, urban intervention, design, pollution, art

Art is good for business

They have received support from the recently-opened LEGO store in Beirut, who admits the duo’s work brings them great exposure. The company has promised to donate thousands of bricks if Dispatch Beirut is able to secure permission to build their project.

This is the latest in a string of colorful and engaging intervention projects that call attention to Beirut’s staggering pollution, lack of green space, and unsafe urban infrastructure.

For more examples of activists and artists who are fighting for their city, take a peak at Bokja’s fabric-wrapped “burning tires” and Arwa’s interview with the folks behind the public “trash theater.”

Also, if you happen to have a huge stockpile of LEGO bricks to give away, why not donate them to Dispatch Beirut?

:: Daily Star

Images via Dispatch Beirut

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