Dar Al-Hekma, SCTA initiate ‘Reinventing Asir’ project

Updated 22 November 2014
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Dar Al-Hekma, SCTA initiate ‘Reinventing Asir’ project

Dar Al-Hekma University, in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), is initiating the Reinventing Asir project to position Asir as a signature region for progressive preservation.
The project will have multiple legs where the first one starts at the historical site of Al-Okaz village in Asir, on Feb. 18, and the last one ends in Jeddah on March 5.
“The initiative seeks to engage international and local artists, architects, designers, scientists, curators, scholars and community stakeholders in a dialogue that explores ways to bring the past of Asir into a significant future, by merging ancient wisdom with cutting-edge trends and technology,” said Suhair Al-Qurashi, president of Dar Al-Hekma University.
Reinventing Asir is a visionary project that focuses on the reinvention of the vernacular. It builds on the rich and ancient traditions and heritage of Asir.
Moreover, it has been taken as an area of intervention to demonstrate how local tradition and history can be woven into the global context of new media science, art and technology, according to Anna Klingmann, project leader and curator, and chair of the architecture department at Dar Al-Hekma University.
The project starts 50 km outside the city center of Abha at the historical site of Al-Okaz village in Asir. It will feature site-specific art installations from Feb. 18 to 20. Many artists are working hand in hand from all over the globe; Anne Senstad from the United States, Thierry Mauger from France, C. Hennix from Germany and Ahmed Mater and Ibrahim Abu Musmar from Saudi Arabia.
The artists will transform the site by color, light projections, photographs and sound installations to turn it into a multisensorial experience. The abandoned village will come to life and be a hub where local residents start conversations, remember their past but also discuss the potential future.
Part of the project is a students’ competition that will be held on Feb. 20. During the competition, students will present their design proposals for Al-Okaz village to a multidisciplinary panel of architects, artists and local stakeholders. The winner will be announced once the best design is selected.
The second part of the project will be held in Jeddah where the installation of Al-Okaz village will be showcased the following week starting with the opening of a photography exhibition by Thierry Mauger, who is part of the team for the video projections, on Feb. 25. After that, they will be shown during the Hekma Design Week in March 2015.
Hekma Design Week & Symposium is a cross-disciplinary, five-day event of intense workshops, presentations and talks that bridge multiple scales and disciplines ranging from traditional and contemporary art forms to site-specific art interventions, architecture, interior design, graphics, branding and fashion.
Finally, a video documentary of Asir events will be projected at the Athr Gallery in Jeddah alongside a contemporary majlis art installation that will take place in March by Anne Senstad, another artist who was part of the team for the video projections.
The Reinventing Asir events at Dar Al-Hekma University represents the beginning of an ongoing collaboration and research between Anna Klingmann, architecture students of Dar Al-Hekma University, SCTA and the local stakeholders in Asir as well as renowned international artists, architects, designers and scholars.
The collaboration aims to creatively explore and demonstrate how a historical village may be redefined and reclaimed with advanced technologies through an amalgamation of traditional architecture with contemporary art in a unique setting.


Magical Madrid: The unique charms of the Spanish capital

Madrid the capital of Spain. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Magical Madrid: The unique charms of the Spanish capital

  • Madrid is a European capital like no other
  • Madrid’s blockbuster sights regally lived up to their generations-old hype

LONDON: It was bad luck that brought me to Madrid — or perhaps fate. Midway through a two-month road trip around Southern Europe, diligently skirting the coasts of Portugal and Spain, but with no intention of venturing inland, my 20-year-old campervan broke down in the scorching Andalusian planes, some 30 km outside Seville, officially the warmest city in Europe.
My fate was sealed by the calendar as much as the location: It wasn’t just that I blamed the searing summer sun for overheating my ancient engine, but also for thwarting any chance of its repair. For the month of “Agosto,” I soon learned, the south of Spain simply shuts down. There wasn’t a garage in town with the faintest bit of interest in fixing my motor. And so, after a fortnight of shade-seeking 40-degree days and flamenco-filled nights in Seville, I impulsively rented a car and made a spontaneous six-hour road trip to Madrid. And whatever the repair bill ended up being, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Arriving exhausted at dusk, I emerged from my air-conditioned car to find the climate completely transformed, temperatures hovering in the pleasant mid-twenties, surrounded by commuters ambling amiably to street-side tavernas rather than racing to the metro — or hiding indoors like their southern compatriots.

Hurried logic (and a whiff of luck) had brought me to the south-western edge of the central Sol barrio, a maze of winding streets with colorful cafés and tapas joints that seem to be as busy for breakfast as in the early hours, entertaining a constant flow of customers and an insistent throb of lively chat. It was the perfect tonic for the breakdown blues.
Arriving without preconception or preparation had its benefits. I was free to follow whims, enjoying the kind of aimlessness which can only be bred through enforced limbo. Evenings drifted by nibbling gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) and pimientos de padrón (padrón peppers), while practicing my newly acquired Spanish with friendly locals at Bodegas Melibea, an audaciously decorated café with wide open windows offering cooling vistas of the ever-changing street scene.

Madrid’s blockbuster sights regally lived up to their generations-old hype. The Plaza Major really could not be better named — a bright rectangular space built around the turn of the 16th century, lined with interconnected regal rows of identical three-story buildings, sporting a total of 237 tiny balconies.
Grander still is the Royal Palace of Madrid, a magnificent maze of 3,418 rooms which make it Europe’s largest royal residence. Be sure to stop at the nearby Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple donated to Spain and incongruously rebuilt in the early 1970s.
I had heard of the Prado Museum, of course, and held some inkling of its famed depth and breadth, but little could prepare me for the boggling floorplan and epic catalogue of art, which stretches from the 12th to 20th centuries. At any one time, only about 1,300 of the institution’s collection of more than 20,000 works is on display — but that still means that if you entered at 10 a.m., stayed until closing time at 8 p.m., and took zero breaks, you would have the equivalent of 27 seconds to view each work. Time is likely to be considerably tighter when an extension is unveiled next year, coinciding with the Prado’s 200th anniversary.

Temple of Debod. (Shutterstock)

More manageable and equally essential is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, one of Europe’s greatest exhibitors of 20th-century artists which pays homage to the country’s headline exports Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí — including staging the former’s epic “Guernica,” a stark, monochrome Spanish Civil War epic which rightfully ranks among the century’s greatest cultural achievements. At 7.7 meters wide, it’s a work that no postcard or textbook reproduction can do justice to — a statement which needs to be experienced in the flesh, and studied up close, to appreciate even a jot of its power, scope or intent.
Madrid is simply magical. Not in that quaint, stately, Western European way of Vienna or Prague, nor with the pretentious powerhouse vibe of Paris or London. And nothing like the crumbling grandeur of Mediterranean neighbors Rome and Athens. It’s a European capital like no other — and it’s the one I’d move to in a heartbeat.