Art meets architecture at design startup UV Lab

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Khan Bar Restaurant: UV Lab's first comprehensive project

 This article is part of a partnership with Dreammatcher and AltCity. UV Labs' founder Khaled AlWarea won a contest at the coworking space and chose to featured on Wamda as part of their prize.

Fleeing home hasn't stopped this young Syrian entrepreneur. UVLab’s founder Khaled AlWarea came to Lebanon to build his team and do things that most refugees do not.

AlWarea began his creative work in Syria after graduating from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Damascus. As he did not want to sit in an office all day long, he decided to do “something fun and creative” as an alternative. He founded the design studio UVLab soon thereafter to fuse art, architecture and digital fabrication with parametric design principles he learned in school. The studio's formal name is Universal Vibes Lab.

How parametric design works

The idea, suffering, team, and creativity

Work began in earnest after AlWarea assembled his team. “We met camping at Chahtoul, shared our expertise,” he said. The team now includes Mike Shnsho, Sandy Kastoun, and Zena El Abdalla.

His early-stage startup focus on the implementation of designs for events, celebrations, and concerts, "because the designs come to life with music and have a greater impact that way, especially if combined with light effects."

"The role of art and architecture lies in showing the beauty," says AlWarea who further points to the effort that he and his team put into creating beautiful things with “cheap but creative material" using parametric design techniques.

So far, AlWarea and his team have five projects in this relatively new field: Khan Art Bar (complete design of Kan Bar restaurant on Monot Street in Beirut), Shamash, the sets for Pine-metric, Binzen Wiskh [Dirty Gasoline], and lighting for Green Sheep.

Most of these projects “were very low-budget,” AlWarea said, and noted that the Binzen Wiskh project was important “because it was a fundraiser for Syrian refugees… we got to design a stage for Syrian bands and rappers.”

Green Sheep Project: the night is more beautiful in colors

So what is parametric design?

Architecture and design have been around for as long as people have built things, but the means and tools have evolved. And as computers developed, they too became tools for architecture, design, and display through the utilization of parametric design: the relationship between design intent and design outcome.

Parametric design, now standard in architecture software, allows for modifications in any part of the design to automatically impact related parts, reducing time and effort it would take to make such modifications manually. Through parametric design, architects can study the relationships between the fundamental aspects of an actual building, including the materials, manufacturing techniques, and structural characteristics in the design process.

Engineers and designers nowadays use parametric design to create everyday objects, from, structures, to blueprints to urban plans and data maps.

Binzen Wiskh concert: when different forms of art meet on one stage

Struggling but still ambitious

The startup isn’t generating revenue yet, but its members are looking to build experience, boost their professional careers, and evolve a business model that suits them. AlWarea explained: “We are completing these works that are surprising and appealing to people with a shoestring budget.” While they are still in the early stages, they have great ambitions. And while the market in Lebanon is limited, they aspire to go global “because we know that the sector is new and unsaturated, both in the world and in the region,” AlWarea said, and added that they face little competition in the Arab world as the creative design sector here is still small.

Shamash’s eyes are sad despite its beauty

In addition to the challenges they face as Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the team self-funds its projects and has not yet sought investment. They don’t even have an office. “In Lebanon, we do not have space to put our tools, hold workshops, and implement our designs. Finding such a space in Beirut would be a miracle.”

Pines wear seductive clothes at Pine-metric

And how did he end up with the Dream Matcher winning ticket? AlWarea said that his friend had sent him the link to their Facebook page. “So I registered and went to the event they held, pitched my idea, and won a grant, which I chose to come from Wamda in order to get media coverage.” 

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