Lebanese American University


Urban in(ter)vention

The School of Arts and Sciences holds its spring TEDxLAU event.

A Q&A period on stage with LAU architecture instructor Dr. Ayssar Arida.

Participants were asked to suggest creative urban solutions.

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Considering that the majority of the world’s population resides in a city, it becomes clear that the future is urban. But how many city dwellers actually form connections with their city? This was the question that inspired the TEDxLAU event dubbed Urban In(ter)vention that took place on April 22 under the auspices of the School of Arts and Sciences.

“This event isn’t only for the architects and designers among us, but for anyone hoping to make an impact in an urban setting,” said Reine Azzi, TEDxLAU curator and instructor of moral reasoning at LAU Beirut.

As eager participants filled the Irwin auditorium, students, faculty and alumni could interact and meet other like-minded people in a social space specially set up by the organizers.

“There is this sense of familiarity among the participants here — it’s as if we are all part of the same club,” said LAU alumna Nathalie Karam.

The buzz of the lobby gave way to a hushed silence as the salon was kicked-off by a screening of the soothing sounds of composer and conductor Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst. The spectacular performance coordinated live 32 choir singers over Skype to join the chorus with the performers on stage.

The choral show set the mood and captured the do-it-yourself and anything-is-possible attitude the organizers intended to encourage during the event. From the onset, an important link was made between changing the city and changing one’s own life. The screening of David Kelley’s talk, “How to Build Your Creative Confidence” picked up this parlance and highlighted the relationship of change to risk.

“This talk made me realize that if we want to change our cities we have to change ourselves first; and we can’t do that unless we are willing to take risks and give our opinions without being judged,” said AUB student Eric Reddy.

To encourage creative collaboration, Azzi asked participants to work in groups and come up with creative solutions to some of Beirut’s most pressing problems. An exercise in which participants enthusiastically engaged with a remarkably low level of inhibition — the very atmosphere TedxLAU sought to promote as a catalyst for change, intervention and innovation.

Continuing in this vein was a question-and-answer period on stage with LAU architecture instructor Dr. Ayssar Arida.

Trained as a professional architect, Arida refers to himself as an ‘urbatect’ and makes the controversial claim that architecture is simply obsolete. Arida uses the concept “quantum cities” to describe a new paradigm in understanding and relating to the city.

“We build cities in the way we imagine the world,” he stressed, driving home the importance of creativity and urban intervention.

TedxLAU partnered with Beirut Colors and Lamba Labs to make this event possible.



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