Translating an Urban Experience

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Translating an Urban Experience 


Etienne Bastormagi



The City , its urban life , social network, architecture & politics all translated into works.

BAYRUT THE BOOK _in collaboration with Al KHayyat Al Saghir  

As part of a collaboration with children publishing house Al Khayyat Al Saghir the book Bayrut was launched during designweek comprising illustrations inspired by the city its planning and its architecture. For more on the book check the blog posts that give an idea of the making of the book.

The book is sold throughout the main libraries in Beirut, in Mondu Azul in Berlin and has been recently published in Dubai.






You talk about the translating the city socially, politically and architecturally into art. How do you go about creating an artwork? Do specific urban conditions inspire a certain format?

My artworks reflect my relationship with Beirut. The city is a platform of inspiration created by specific urban and socio-political conditions. I draw what I experience and collapse my experiences to create my works. The art is self-expressive and becomes an experience of its own. Formats are also driven by those experiences. For example, the large 2m diameter circle artwork represented the fragmentation of Beirut and its intersections, so the concentric format was inspired by the need to present a strong focal point.

How much work goes into determining the construction of an artwork through preliminary sketches?

Most of my work starts planned and ends up totally improvised just like my experiences. This city is full of architectural and planning contradictions, which becomes my source of inspiration. This leads me into portraying realities that were a byproduct of war and the evolution of Beirut, and then projecting my own Utopian layer of interpretation. My early sketches, then become more complex shaping the ideas into 3 dimensional renderings (real or distorted), and then these volumetric are redrawn in many layers in most of the works.

One of your exhibitions was named Mental Landscapes, what does the term landscape mean to you?

Landscapes are the frames that I register in my mind as a result of dissecting the city into flash moments. I’m very much interested in the built environment and the landscapes that result from the urban condition.

What dictates your colour palette?

My color palette is dictated by the need to express and stay true to a certain idea, regardless of the medium used. I’m interested mostly in wire drawings and solid black lines as I believe these drawn edges are what traces these landscapes best.

How does the audience you are drawing for dictate the ‘output’ in terms of Mental landscapes vs children book?

Both are similar being tales from my city Beirut, and different in the message intent (the children’s book leaves more space for hope). The exhibition represents the mental landscapes I experienced, whereas the book adds a different dimension: characters. These characters are a state of mind inspired by Beirut (Mrs. Annoyed and Mr. Lost), that represent the state of its citizens, who are lost between the torn past and the abandoned future. The city then becomes the characters and they become the direct result of their urban context.






BAYRUT THE BOOK_in collaboration with Al KHayyat Al Saghir


BAYRUT THE BOOK_9n collaboration with Al KHayyat Al Saghir


BAYRUT THE BOOK_in collaboration with Al KHayyat Al Saghir





Born in 1980, Etienne Bastormagi is an architect and urban designer and a visual artist who grew in Beirut in a multicultural family of various influences. His keen interest in the rise of cities and their urban growth took him to pursue his Master’s Degree in Urban Design and Planning after completing his Bachelor degree in Architecture.
Today, Etienne lives and works in Beirut. Since 2011, He has dedicated valuable time putting together a series of artworks that evolve around Beirut.With his arsenal of experience, commitment and passion; he draws a reflection of several years of work and observation. In his first-time exhibition “Mental Landscapes”, he draws complex mind maps of Beirut, an abstract relationship forged between his mind and his city, fusing urban and architectural elements to represent a collective memory, a visual perspective of his own mind experiences.


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