“Print is dying,” Yara Akkari kept hearing when she told people she was launching a magazine. But that didn’t ring true. “I believe that people go back to print, the same way they go back to appreciating nature and open space.”
Open Spaces, the magazine she launched in March, is about showcasing “the connections between people, art and the natural world.” Articles in the first issue include a reflective climbing trek through the Italian Dolomites culminating in a visit to a Zaha Hadid-designed museum, and a piece exploring “how contemporary initiatives are increasing access to green spaces for minority groups,” says Akkari. “The open spaces are not necessarily experienced the same way, depending on your skin color, and I think it is important to talk about it.”
Launching the magazine during a pandemic was not Akkari’s original plan – she came up with the idea in September 2019 – but the timing is serendipitous. Lockdowns have reminded us that “happiness can be found in life’s little things, or things we took for granted.” The freedom of the outdoors has never seemed more vital. “There is, now more than ever, an increasing awareness of the power of the open outdoor space – boundless, wild and rugged in its beauty,” Akkari says.
Born in France to a Lebanese father and a Syrian mother, Akkari lived in Paris until age 14 before spending a couple of years in Beirut, a city not known for its open spaces. She’s been based in New York City for the past 12 years, with frequent stints in Los Angeles. She has a Master’s in development studies from the London School of Economics and works on projects like helping low-income households access sources of renewable energy. She funded Open Spaces with a Kickstarter campaign.
The second issue will feature outdoor adventures involving women surfers and snowboarders in Lebanon, “a country whose natural resources and beauty aren’t necessarily the first things to come to mind amid ongoing political and economic struggles,” says Akkari. “But it’s a country that has so much to offer, and this is something I want to share with my audience.”
Meanwhile, Akkari is betting that the sensory craving for hard-copy magazines isn’t going away anytime soon, just as books aren’t either. Open Spaces is essentially a “coffee table magazine,” she notes. “It feels like a book when you have it in your hands.”