The Serail Creativity Hub

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In 2018, Prime Minister Saad Hariri adopted IDEAS’ proposal to transform the historic cross-vault hall in Beirut’s Grand Serail into a technologically-empowered working environment, and entrusted the Business Environment and Innovation Unit at the Prime Minister’s Office to follow up on its creation. IDEAS was called upon to bring the Serail Creativity Hub to life.

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Reviving a lost space

This once-forgotten cross-vault hall was used between 2018 and 2019 to host some of Lebanon’s most impactful conferences and events while awaiting the completion of funding rounds for the Serail Creativity Hub concept. IDEAS collaborated closely with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers on a series of events that posed as a prelude to the hub’s eventual functionality:

      • The MIT REAP program’s roundtable discussions on Agri-Tech, bringing together members of the Lebanese government and representatives of the Agricultural sector to discuss advancements in agricultural technology.

      • Lebanon’s first Digital Economy conference, announcing the Innovation Nation program for the first time in the presence of the World Bank the Lebanese ministers of Finance, Interior and Innovation, alongside OMSAR and a host of professionals directly concerned with the digitization mission.

      • A myriad of private sector startups, showcasing their entrepreneurial achievements under the Summer of Innovation Program

The Serail Creativity Hub

The Serail Creativity Hall is to be a digital oasis residing in the highest seat of Executive Government  – The Beirut Grand Serail. It is conceptualized to serve as the nation’s beacon for technological change and innovation it is an innovative, creative space embedded within the historical Ottoman-built 400-sqm setting which will preserve its original historical identity while functioning as an efficient, professional, digitally-enabled working space. The hub will serve as:
  1. A permanent space for round-table discussions between the public and private sector as well as NGOs, the academia, and any other stakeholders concerned with the advancement of the Lebanese economy.

  2. A Decision Support Center for the Lebanese Government, with the nation’s first geo-enabled database on the country, hosted at the space, and serving as a dashboard for national decision makers.

  3. A capacity-building center for the public sector, equipped and enabled with the latest in cross-border training technologies.

  4. A showcase for advancements and creativity in any discipline, be they related to technology, the arts, sciences, or any other dimension of innovation that could be present on the Lebanese territories, complementing and supporting while never competing with the private sector.

The Design Competition

To move this vision forward, the Lebanese Government – the asset’s custodian and eventual operator – should be in office. Interim time was used by IDEAS to finalize preliminary planning and technology costing exercises, until new government formation occurred in January 2019. As a ground-breaking step, IDEAS organized a Design Competition across Lebanon’s Faculties of Architecture, thus involving Lebanon’s creative youth in the conceptual design challenge of embedding a multi-faceted technological space within a historical Ottoman setting. A total of 164 students within 24 teams participated in a 7-week competition run by IDEAS. The competition was carefully judged by subject-matter experts, and eventually voted upon by the Prime Minister himself. A LL 10 million award was presented to the winning team whose members will participate in the actual detailed design and execution of the Serail Creativity Hub. 

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