Here’s To Beirut is relevant for creative strategy because it celebrates the contagious spirit of resilience and hope of humanity. It demonstrates how strategic thinking combined with great creative development can contribute to influence people for a good cause. Here we are facing a great example of transformational problem-solving that led to compelling creative strategy: turning a big social problem into a creative solution that has a bigger purpose.
On August 4th 2020, an explosion shook Beirut.
The blast physically shook the whole country of Lebanon. It was felt in Turkey, Syria, Palestine, and Israel as well as parts of Europe, and was heard in Cyprus, more than 240 km away.
It was one of the most powerful man-made, non-nuclear explosions in history.
It caused 218 deaths, 7,000 injuries, and left an estimated 300,000 people homeless.
The human cost was unimaginable.
Hidden behind this terrible crisis is another, smaller – but still meaningful loss: the blast destroyed a large part of Downtown Beirut, including more than 640 of the city’s heritage buildings, leaving behind tons of shattered glass. Beautiful buildings collapsed, were burnt down or were damaged in the explosion and its ensuing fire.
The areas hardest hit by the explosion, such as Gemmayzeh, Mar Mikhael and Ashrafieh, also had the highest concentration of historic structures in Beirut.
The Interpretation of the Challenge (30% of vote)
Architecture is more than bricks and stones – it is a core part of a city’s identity, an expression of its people and its culture. And this is why The Beirut Heritage Initiative (BHI) wanted to act and help rebuild and renovate the damaged buildings.
The BHI is an independent collective organised around a team of experts and professionals with complementary skills, such as the Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut (OEA), in addition to a number of NGOs specialised in cultural heritage.
They had the skills and the will. The problem was that they did not have the funds.
Before the blast, Lebanon had already been in a state of deep socio-economic trouble.
After the blast, Beirut had lost another US$15 billion in property damage; and while thousands were homeless, preserving the city’s heritage was the last priority for both the government and international NGOs.
The Insight / Breakthrough Thinking (30% of vote)
The Lebanese had already lost so much.
The Beirut Heritage Initiative wanted to fight to help them preserve their heritage, culture and architecture.
But how could we do that without taking away from the funds needed to help the people?
A simple donation campaign would just get lost in all the noise surrounding the blast and the many (often more urgent) causes that needed funds.
The answer came in true Lebanese resilient spirit: by finding an ingenious way to make something good out of the rubble of this terrible disaster.
Hundreds of tons of glass were shattered in the explosion. What if we could turn this broken glass into something new – something representative of Beirut’s unbreakable spirit?
The Creative Idea (20% of vote)
We launched “Here’s to Beirut” – an initiative that makes and sells handmade drinking glasses made of recycled glass collected from Beirut’s historical buildings.
Why glasses? Because everyone buying those glasses should drink to Beirut’s good health and to a more peaceful future for its people and its neighbourhoods.
In collaboration with one of the oldest glass factories in Lebanon, the glasses were hand-printed and placed in handmade Zain wooden boxes inspired by Beirut’s traditional window facades. Each glass was imprinted with a gold filigran that says “Beirut never breaks”.
These limited-edition sets can be purchased online at HeresToBeirut.com and delivered worldwide. All proceeds go to the restoration efforts led by BHI.
Instead of creating a generic donation campaign, BHI wanted to inspire people by instilling a sense of optimism in a chaotic situation, and offer a chance for everyone in the region to contribute by purchasing a collectible item.
The Outcome / Results (20% of vote)
The special edition glasses were displayed in venues around the world including at Expo 2020 - playing a key role in raising the profile of Beirut’s architectural heritage, not just in the country but internationally.
The bigger and most meaningful result though is that the renovation journey has begun.
BHI has organized its efforts and workflow into 3 phases: emergency propping and sheltering of houses, partial repairs and full restorations, and a vision for urban regeneration. One building has been fully restored thanks to this initiative, 7 have been consolidated or partially restored (with the support of other local partners) and more are on their way.
Let’s continue rebuilding Beirut’s heritage one glass at a time.
If you’d like to contribute, you can support the initiative at https://herestobeirut.com/
Shukran. Merci. Thank you.
Please tell us how the brand purpose inspired the work
Beirut Heritage Initiative (BHI), was launched as an independent and inclusive collective, in favor of restoring the built and cultural heritage of Beirut affected by the August 4, 2020 blast. The purpose of BHI is to restore Beirut’s heritage: what is more inspiring than a city’s rebirth of its heritage from its own ashes?