Urban Toys developed as the expression of Karam’s public art projects. With the basic belief that cities are living organisms that we activate with our lives and energy, he sought out hidden pockets of memories and dreams in cities to inspire his urban interventions, expressing them through stories to create whimsical moments in the city.
Starting from 1992 in Yamabe, the realm of his Archaic Procession paintings fused with his parallel focus on the urban environment, and he began conceiving public art projects intended to combat soullessness in cities around the world.
In his text Karam’s Animals in The City (1997), Peter Cook, then Chair of the Bartlett School of Architecture, was the first to refer to Karam’s work as “toys”. Karam later adopted this term for his 2006 book entitled Urban Toys, in which he presented his large-scale public art projects in five cities. In his introductory manifesto Can Cities Dream?, he reflected on the tension and fear generated in cities after the 2001 attack on New York, the ensuing violence in European cities, and the parallel multiple assassinations and car bombs in Lebanon. Karam argued that, faced with the nihilism of terrorism, creative efforts should be multiplied, because cities need moments of joy, whimsy and absurdity, and because they need to dream. His approach was to set up silent, tangible cultural movers; magnets for people’s trajectories and catalyzers for moments of respite from urban pressures.