JEDDAH: The second edition of Tasmeem Fair — a nonprofit initiative from the Saudi Art Council — offers young Saudi-based architects and interior designers the opportunity to display some of their most innovative concepts.
Each work on display in this year’s exhibition, curated by Lama bint Mansour, is inspired by a verse from the Holy Qur’an, with some astonishing results. The fair runs until Oct. 22.
The design of the fair itself is ambitious; haunting instrumental music plays as visitors explore, resulting in a relaxing, dreamlike state. The goal of all this is equally ambitious: To expand the interpretation of architecture in Saudi Arabia, so that it is seen not just as designing and building structures, but as an art form in its own right, capable of conveying complex ideas.
Take the installation from Digital Art Lab (DAL), which attempts to explore the concept of infinity. DAL built a room that has mirrors on all four walls, which also feature light projections of geometric art. The floor and ceiling remain bare. It becomes almost impossible to distinguish where the projections end and the reflections begin. It’s an unusual and unbalancing experience.
Shahad Abu Ala’a’s installation, too, leads viewers to question what is real. Her design includes layer upon layer of glass, each with geometric designs on. The shapes shift as you move around them.
“I am trying to deliver an idea through this platform,” the 24-year-old designer — who describes architecture as “the mother of art” — said. “I get inspired by many things around me, I get inspired by the Qur’an, by other artists, and by exploring differences.”
“As an architect, you can be an artist or a manager,” she explained. “That’s why I love my career. And having people focus on the younger generation of artists and architects make me think we’re headed to a very wonderful place. There are many great designs to come.”
Raghad Al-Ahmad, meanwhile, used her installation — which incorporated, among other things, an iPad and a satellite dish — to “explore the temporary isolation of seekers,” envisaging a process by which a seeker after peace and truth will first look inside themselves and then project themselves back into the world. Her work, she said, is inspired by the geometry and bright colors of the Memphis Group, an Italian design collective established in the 1980s.
Al-Ahmadi, 24, said Tasmeem was like a dream come true for her and her peers. “Now we have a platform, I think everyone will work harder to achieve what they want,” she said.
Our favorite installation came from Sybil Design Studio. The designers had hung layers of white canvas sheets, with miniature abstract art drawn on them.
The end result was like a window into your own mind — the way that thoughts and memories are stored and organized.
“We wanted to mix architecture and graphic design,” said Meaad Hanafi, one of the architects from Sybil. “We’re very keen to push the boundaries and deliver a new sense of art and architecture to people. This is our first time displaying at Tasmeem and the response we’ve had has been amazing. I love it.”
Lujain Badreig, one of the three designers behind “Kaynona” — a domed installation that plays with the physics of atoms and mimics the Big Bang — described the experience of exhibiting their work at Tasmeem as “intimidating” but “amazing.”
“The future of architects is blooming,” she said. “Artists and architects are being supported, and it gives us a sense of comfort to have people who push you and believe in you.
“We have so many ideas and we can do so much more. This is not an end,” she continued. “We want to see how far we can go.”