Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities

Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
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First Saudi pavilion at the Venice Biennale’s architecture exhibition shows the role design can play in the fabric of Saudi cities. (Supplied: Venice Biennale)
Updated 25 May 2018

Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities

Pavilion at Venice Biennale architecture exhibition shows role of design in fabric of Saudi Arabian cities
  • Saudi Arabia unveiled a sweeping exhibition exploring the country’s progress over the past five decades
  • Saudi pavilion illustrated the evolution underway as the country embraces a new era of change

VENICE: In its debut appearance at Italy’s most prestigious architecture fair on Thursday, Saudi Arabia unveiled a sweeping exhibition exploring the country’s progress over the past five decades.
Holding its own among the 65 national pavilions at the 16th Venice Biennale’s International Architecture Exhibition, the Saudi pavilion illustrated the evolution underway as the country embraces a new era of change, powered by Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 blueprint for the future.
It’s the first time the Kingdom has had a presence at the event, which is considered one of the foremost forums for international architecture, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe to the historic city of Venice in northeastern Italy.
At the heart of the display in the Venetian Arsenal — the historic shipyards that house some of the most prominent pavilions at the biannual fair, a set of screens on opposite walls flash up clips of Saudi cities showing people wandering along the Jeddah Corniche or drinking coffee at a Bujairy Park cafe in Riyadh.
The reels illustrate the way urban sprawl has unfolded across the Kingdom, where rapid urbanization resulting in settlement-driven growth has skipped over spaces in Saudi cities, leaving vast lots vacant between buildings. With more than 40 percent of urban land unused, communities are dispersed, creating a sense of fragmentation between neighborhoods connected only by cars.
“The vacant lot is a very prevalent typology in Saudi cities: anyone passing through them will notice the empty tracts of land everywhere,” said architect Turki Gazzaz, who co-created the pavilion space – which is named “Spaces in Between” — with his brother Abdulrahman Gazzaz.
The duo, who founded Jeddah-based architectural studio Bricklab, beat 70 other entries to secure the commission to create the Kingdom’s first biennale pavilion, which shows the role design can play in re-knitting the social and structural fabric of Saudi cities.
While outlets for creative expression have previously been limited in the Kingdom, attitudes are increasingly conducive toward design-led solutions. “People are becoming more conscious about these critical issues that exist within our urban fabric … this is beginning to spill out into our society and impact it in a positive way,” Abdulrahman said.
Recent reforms rolled out under Vision 2030 have created a channel for creativity to fuel the country’s growth as it looks beyond the oil sector — a turning point referenced by the pavilion’s use of resin, which is a byproduct of the petrochemical industry.
This has been mixed with sand — a material that both symbolizes Saudi Arabia and links it to the rest of the world — for the giant curved screens that frame the exhibition.
Inside, projections show digital maps of the Kingdom’s main cities, beginning with aerial perspectives that convey their fragmented growth before moving down to street-level snapshots of everyday life in the city.
These pictures have been drawn from social media and most are taken from cars, the dual axis of urban life for city-dwelling Saudis. Below, old mobile phones, a walkie-talkie and broken motherboards are showcased beneath a glass panel of fragmented electronics to “create a conversation about consumer culture” and comment on the “virtual public space” that people increasingly congregate in at the expense of public places, said Abdulrahman.
Speaking to Arab News at the launch of the Saudi pavilion in Venice on Thursday, Dhay Al Dhawyan, project manager at the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs, described the need to “humanize” Saudi cities, something Vision 2030, and the more immediate targets for 2020, are moving toward.
“We want to bring back city centers, walkability, accessibility, connectivity and rework the visual aspects of our cities to make them more lively and functional.”
The overall theme at this year’s biennale is “Freespace,” selected by the Irish curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara to encourage architects to explore how “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity” can contribute to the built environment.
Tapping into this ethos, the Saudi pavilion curators have compiled a display that blurs the boundaries between development and desert, city border and boundless expanse.
In demographic terms, Saudi cities have always been very diverse but in many cases they lack the infrastructure to encourage interaction, said Jawaher Al-Sudairy, one of the exhibition curators and director of Nahda Center for Research as well as senior program manager at Harvard Kennedy School.
“There are public spaces but they’re under-utilized, so that’s where the conversation should be.”
Communication is the overriding aim for the creators behind the Saudi pavilion, which invites visitors to explore the evolution taking place in Saudi Arabia’s skyline and engage with the social shift underway as the Kingdom steps onto the world stage.
“We’re tackling a global issue here; this is not unique to Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Sumayah Al-Solaiman, the other half of the female curatorial team at the exhibition.
In keeping with the lofty spirit of the biennale, literature handed out to interested parties at the Saudi pavilion errs on the aloof and arty, but the experience created by the exhibition is firmly grounded in the relatable.
The teams wants visitors to identify with the issues raised, which have a global resonance in an era defined by rapid urban growth.
“We’re more similar with other nations than we are different … and this is a great way to have a conversation that is not necessarily bound by national boundaries,” said Al-Solaiman, who is dean of the College of Design at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University.
“The Venice Biennale is an excellent platform to start a conversation around architecture and how were designing and building, and we want to have this discussion with other architects around the world.”
“Our participation in the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is an unprecedented moment for Saudi Arabia’s creative community. It’s an opportunity to bring pioneering Saudi thought to an international platform through our creative vernacular,” said Ahmed Mater, executive director of the Misk Art Institute, which organized the Saudi pavilion.
“Coupled with the allocation of an incredible pavilion space, we are very excited about our presentation this year at the Biennale Architettura but also, looking forward to future years and presentations and what they will draw upon from our own community.”
For Al-Sudairy, one of the most interesting projects on the horizon is the Riyadh Metro, which she believes will transform more than mobility in the capital. “I can’t wait to see how it changes the people move around … it’s going to transform the city physically and socially.”
It is one of many large-scale infrastructure projects underway across the Kingdom that aims to bring a sense of cohesion to the country’s urban environments and unite diverse communities within them.
The Saudi pavilion opens to the public on Saturday (May 26).


Saudi crown prince congratulates Djibouti president on re-election

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi crown prince congratulates Djibouti president on re-election

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti. (SPA/AFP/File Photos)
  • Ismail Omar Guelleh obtained 98.58 percent of the vote

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sent a cable of congratulations to President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti after he won a fifth term in the country’s recent presidential elections 

In his cable, the crown prince wished the president success, stressing keenness on enhancing bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Djibouti. 

He also wished the president good health and happiness as well as the people of Djibouti steady progress and prosperity, Saudi Press Agency reported.

“President Ismail Omar Guelleh obtained 167,535 votes, which is 98.58 percent,” Interior Minister Moumin Ahmed Cheick announced last Friday.

He added that the confirmed results would be released by the Constitutional Council.

 


UN Security Council welcomes Saudi initiative to end Yemeni crisis

The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 17 April 2021

UN Security Council welcomes Saudi initiative to end Yemeni crisis

The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The Council also called on Yemeni parties to continue implementing the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement
  • Members denounced recent cross-border attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The UN Security Council has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s peace initiative to end the Yemeni conflict and reach a political solution to the crisis.

In a press statement issued on Friday, the UNSC said the Saudi initiative is in line with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths’ peace proposal, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi proposal entails a nationwide cease-fire, the reopening of Sanaa International Airport and allowing fuel and food imports through the port of Hodeidah.

The statement indicated that the UNSC called on all Yemeni parties to engage constructively with the UN Special Envoy and negotiate without preconditions, for an immediate ceasefire throughout the country and a comprehensive political settlement, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions.

The UNSC also urged the participation of Yemeni women and the country’s youth in talks in accordance with relevant resolutions, underlying its members' commitment to the sovereignty and territorial unity of Yemen. 

The Council also called on Yemeni parties to continue implementing the provisions of the Riyadh Agreement.

The Security Council members denounced the recent cross-border attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia, calling for an immediate end to the Houthis’ escalation against Yemeni city of Marib.

The council also held the Houthi militia accountable for the danger posed by the Safer oil tanker, calling on Houthis to ensure an immediate and unconditional access of the UN experts to inspect and repair the long-abandoned fuel tanker off the coast of Yemen.


Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 9 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 387,795
  • A total of 6,810 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced nine deaths from COVID-19 and 948 new infections on Saturday.
Of the new cases, 419 were recorded in Riyadh, 210 in Makkah, 133 in the the Eastern Province, 34 in Asir, 32 in Madinah, 23 in Jazan, 20 in Hail, 15 in Tabuk, 12 in the Northern Borders region, nine in Najran and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 387,795 after 775 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 6,810 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.


Saudi King, Crown Prince donate $8.1 million to local charity platform Ehsan

Saudi King, Crown Prince donate $8.1 million to local charity platform Ehsan
Updated 17 April 2021

Saudi King, Crown Prince donate $8.1 million to local charity platform Ehsan

Saudi King, Crown Prince donate $8.1 million to local charity platform Ehsan
  • The platform has been recently launched as an integrated technology portal

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have donated $8.1 million for charitable and not-for-profit activities via the Ehsan Platform, state news agency SPA reported.

The platform has been recently launched as an integrated technology portal that contributes to the governance, management and sustainability of donations. King Salman donated $5.4 million (SR20 million) while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman contributed $2.7 million (SR10 million).

Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf bin Jamaan Al-Ghamdi, Chairman of Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, thanked the Saudi leaders for their generous donations which according to him was an affirmation of “attention being paid by the state’s leadership through being in touch with citizens’ needs and expending for goodness ways.”

Al-Ghamdi expressed the Crown Prince’s keenness to support charitable work and develop the non-profit sector.


Arab coalition destroys Houthi ballistic missile fired toward Jazan

Arab coalition destroys Houthi ballistic missile fired toward Jazan
Updated 17 April 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi ballistic missile fired toward Jazan

Arab coalition destroys Houthi ballistic missile fired toward Jazan
  • Coalition said it is taking operational measures to protect civilians

RIYADH: The Arab coalition destroyed a Houthi ballistic missile fired toward Jazan on Friday, Al-Ekhbariya reported.

The militia’s hostile attempts to target civilians are systematic and deliberate, the coalition said. 

The coalition said it is taking operational measures to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The attack came a day after the coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by Houthis toward Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Those attacks originated from Sa’dah governorate in Yemen, spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Malki said.