‘What is happening in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary, and we want to be a part of it’: Stella Amae architectural firm

‘What is happening in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary, and we want to be a part of it’: Stella Amae architectural firm
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The Congress Center of Alicante: A project that explores the relationship between culture/entertainment, the sea, and the civilizations of the Mediterranean. (Supplied)
‘What is happening in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary, and we want to be a part of it’: Stella Amae architectural firm
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Above, a co-living residential building in Bordeaux, France. (Supplied)
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Updated 13 November 2023
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‘What is happening in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary, and we want to be a part of it’: Stella Amae architectural firm

‘What is happening in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary, and we want to be a part of it’: Stella Amae architectural firm
  • Company working on ongoing megaprojects in Kingdom
  • Alexandre Stella, Ryuta Amae have channelled art, architecture so work becomes vehicle for culture, ‘very French way of practicing architecture’

RIYADH: Through a longstanding relationship with Asia, Stella Amae blends architecture and art, spanning from Europe to Asia, through the Middle East.

Founded in 2020 by Alexandre Stella and Ryuta Amae, the architecture firm bearing the same name is a symbol of exchange between the East and West.

Stella told Arab News: “Stella Amae is composed of two distant poles drawn together by a unique vision. France and Japan, architecture and fine arts, two cultures, two disciplines, distant yet complementary.”

Having worked as an architect in Asia for more than eight years, Stella forged connections with the continent. In France, his international career kept him in touch with Asian culture, working with Japanese agencies and later meeting Amae, his future business partner.

“We started working together when I was working for (Japanese architect) Sou Fujimoto. We worked in Asia, in France, but what united us was Saudi Arabia,” Stella said.




Stella Amae was founded in 2020 by Alexandre Stella, left, and Ryuta Amae. (Supplied)

Today, the architecture firm is working on ongoing megaprojects in Saudi Arabia, leisure schemes in NEOM, and resorts on Shusha Island in the Red Sea.

Stella Amae has also worked on urban sculptures such as the gates of Riyadh.

“This is where the artistic specificity of our agency can bring something more to urban space. It is not just architecture; we also intervene in the field of art.

“For Riyadh, we envisioned a grand gate with an optical effect that gives the idea of passage and access to the city,” Stella added.

Stella Amae focuses on large cities, but not exclusively. The agency also works on second-tier cities, villages, and natural contexts.

A project in Taif, in the Hijaz mountains, is an example of an initiative for rural development and agri-tourism.

Stella said: “It’s a very rich agricultural region. And we wanted tourism development to go hand in hand with ecological development and sustainable agriculture.

“It was a kind of route where you can explore the countryside and nature while simultaneously having a new rural and economic activity with the locals. All of this is connected to Saudi history and heritage.”

Stella Amae has established partnerships with agencies in France and several other countries, notably on neighborhood development projects such as Diriyah II, where they are working on mixed-use neighborhoods (residential, office, commercial), and on the mosque of Diriyah II.

“We have the feeling that something extraordinary is happening in Saudi Arabia. And naturally, as architects, we want to be part of it.

“Today, we are actively seeking to collaborate on projects with the new generation of Saudi architects. We are looking for this possibility of exchanges, and not just as a business prospect,” Stella added.

Participating in missions between France and Saudi Arabia, such as AFEX-Riyadh (French Architecture Days), strengthens the possibility of exchanges with local decision-makers and architects.

For two decades, the expertise of the agency’s co-founders has evolved in tandem with cultural and urban challenges around the world. Stella and Amae have channeled art and architecture so that their work serves as a vehicle for culture, something Stella described as “a very French way of practicing architecture.”

He said: “In France, buildings have often been collaborative efforts with sculptors, painters, and craftsmen. People who were in the fields of art and artisanry, and today we want to highlight this complementarity.”

In terms of expertise, the duo has worked on cultural projects in Asia, particularly in China, including buildings for museums dedicated to traditional Chinese painting, buildings for residents, and multifunctional theaters to animate neighborhoods.

In France, they have worked on projects in line with metropolitan development policies that have marked the last 20 years in the country.

“Urban policy has driven us to create innovative buildings that change the urban relationship by mixing functions — office, housing, and sports or buildings for the younger generations,” Stella said.

This is evident in their work on buildings where nature and communal spaces play a significant role.

Stella noted that the idea was to address issues related to the needs of the new generation — access to housing and the relationships that can be created in the city.

“For us, the development of the city experience is very important in our work,” he added.

One of the challenges in the industry is the number of projects produced compared to those that materialize, especially as some projects do not go through due to validation processes.

Stella Amae presents innovative architectural solutions, supported by experience in managing global projects.


New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

New scheme to promote Saudi comedians
Updated 03 March 2024
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New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

RIYADH: A new initiative to uncover and promote emerging Saudi comedy and theater talents has been launched in the Kingdom.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said the body would be backing the Comedy Factory project, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The authority aims to create a supportive environment in which up-and-coming young comics can develop content reflecting the Saudi identity and community issues, with guidance from industry experts.

The Comedy Factory is part of a series of initiatives organized by the authority to boost the country’s entertainment sector and will include workshops, training courses, and competitive events.

To register for the chance to join the scheme visit https://sauditheaters.com/ar.


Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance distributed 10,000 copies of the Qur’an in various sizes from the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an at the 28th Muscat International Book Fair.

The fair, held from Feb. 21 to March 2 at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center in Muscat, highlighted the importance of literature and knowledge exchange, showcasing a diverse array of works from both within and beyond Oman.

The ministry’s pavilion saw a significant turnout from visitors who expressed admiration for the exhibition and the ministry's efforts in serving Islam.

The visitors also praised the Kingdom’s role in promoting Islam and disseminating the values of tolerance and moderation.

On display at the ministry’s pavilion were various copies of the Qur’an, along with translations into 77 foreign languages.

This year’s fair featured works from 847 publishing houses across 34 countries for a total of 622,000 titles, including 19,000 Omani books.


AlUla’s shannah dates nurture, preserve heritage

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
Updated 03 March 2024
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AlUla’s shannah dates nurture, preserve heritage

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)
  • In alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, the Royal Commission for AlUla is supporting tourism development in the governorate

JEDDAH: In AlUla and the wider Arabian Peninsula, an ancient method of storing and preserving dates, known as shannah, stands as testament to people’s commitment to the preservation of their cultural and culinary heritage.

Shannah not only showcases the ingenuity of the past but also plays a significant role in the region’s economic and agricultural landscape.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

Harvested dates are cleaned, dried, and stuffed into the animal skin, which is then sewn together with palm fronds. The shannah is then left outside to soak up the sun for a period ranging from a few months to five years. The meticulous shannah process ensures the dates’ high quality is maintained throughout.

The demonstration of the shannah process is a highlight of the annual AlUla Dates Festival, providing visitors with firsthand experience of preserving dates in this unique manner.

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$400

Their unique taste and cultural significance make these dates highly sought after, and a single shannah of dates can fetch up to SR1,500 ($400).

In alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, the Royal Commission for AlUla is supporting tourism development in the governorate. This includes the revival of ancient industries such as the shannah, involving the local community in achieving the commission’s goals.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

Abdulhadi Suqeer, a Saudi expert in the cultivation and preservation of dates and date palms, told Arab News: “Shannah has a rich history dating back approximately 400 years. This ancient method served as a means for the residents of AlUla to ensure food security throughout the year.

“In recent times, recognizing its cultural significance, the Royal Commission for AlUla has taken steps to revive this heritage, introducing the new generation to the ancient ways of preserving dates,” he added.

FASTFACTS

• Harvested dates are cleaned, dried, and stuffed into the animal skin, which is then sewn together with palm fronds.

• Shannah is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra.

Shannah is intricately linked to the geography and culture of AlUla.

Shannah is crafted from the skin of sheep or goats and is a crucial element in the date storage process in AlUla. (Supplied)

“Crafted from goat or sheep skins, the shannah undergoes a meticulous process of cleaning, tanning, and preparation, using materials like lime to maintain flexibility,” Saqeer explained.

In the past, the people of AlUla stored their harvest in a variety of containers, including Al-Jassah — made from lime or gypsum — and Al-Majlad, which is made from green palm fronds.

However, Saqeer said, “The ‘shannah’ method imparts a unique taste and flavor to the dates, avoiding any unnatural substances. Some even add flavors like mint, orange leaves, or basil to enhance the aromatic experience.”

The 'Shannah' is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra, which translates to sweet red dates. (Supplied)

The shannah is primarily used to store one specific type of date known as Al-Helwa Al-Hamra, (sweet red dates), which have a low molasses and sugar content, giving the dates their distinct red color. The natural storage process ensures that shannah dates maintain their original taste, flavor, and fragrant smell, particularly when consumed with natural sheep butter or ghee.

Their unique taste and cultural significance make these dates highly sought after, and a single shannah of dates can fetch up to SR1,500 ($400).

“There are individual efforts by some farmers in AlUla to promote the shannah throughout the year, but we need to have a marketing platform adopted by the commission or any of the entities interested in this type of food,” Suqeer concluded.

 

 

Decoder

What is Shannah?

Shannah is an ancient method of storing and preserving dates in AlUla and elsewhere inthe Arabian Peninsula. Using sheep or goat skin, the meticulous shannah process ensures the quality of dates is maintained throughout, an ingenuity of the past that will be highlighted in the next annual AlUla Dates Festival.


Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels

Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels

Saudi artist reimagines Kingdom’s capital in vibrant pixels
  • Khaled Makshoush’s creativity is sparked by Saudi Arabia’s era of transformation

RIYADH: Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush has mastered pixel designs to reimagine Saudi Arabian scenes in a form of art that is personal, soothing and contemporary.

Indie and retro-style video games use pixel designs to create a colorful and visual design, but with his tablet and stylus the Riyadh-based artist captures a variety of sights, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert.

Makshoush told Arab News that he is energized by the transformation of the Kingdom and its complexity: “I’m inspired by the urban landscapes of Riyadh and the industrial scape and the desert scenery of Saudi Arabia in general.”

Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush captures a variety of sights from the Kingdom’s capital, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert. (Pixel Art by Khaled Makshoush)

There is a transportive power in his art that emerges from his creative process. He explained: “In my art I explore the atmosphere of place. For example, if a place makes me feel something, I ask myself what is it about that place that makes me feel these emotions and ways. And I create an imaginary place that expresses these feelings.”

Colors are a big subject in Makshoush’s art; he mixes a vibrant palette, resulting in a bold and eye-catching drawing.   

“Usually, I start with just a few colors that indicate the feel or the atmosphere of the painting, and after that I try to find relationships with other colors that add on or complement that feeling.”

Khaled Makshoush, Saudi artist

Makshoush’s art is inspired by the rapid development of Riyadh, showcasing the bustling city life of the Kingdom’s capital. “I try to let my life and my culture come out organically through chasing my personal sense of the world,” he said.

His forays into the city’s urban landscape spark his creative imagination and the scenes and moments he comes across become the subjects of his work: “Walking and driving in Riyadh always gives me inspiration and an idea for my artwork. It’s interesting to see how the city is changing very fast and also still has its own unique feel that I always like to express.

When everything is moving and changing so fast, it’s important to see and understand what people felt like during a specific time.

Khaled Makshoush, Saudi artist

“My first art Riyadh artwork, ‘Early Evening,’ is about seeing the last phase of sunset in the city and my last Riyadh artwork, ‘Cranes,’ is inspired by the huge and tall cranes I see in Riyadh and how they almost glow during nighttime. Very different subject matters but one city and that’s what I like about it.”

Saudi artist Khaled Makshoush captures a variety of sights from the Kingdom’s capital, from construction sites with cranes to the iconic streets of the capital and the serene terracotta-coloured desert. (Pixel Art by Khaled Makshoush)

Makshoush creates new worlds of his own, inspired by existing ones. His artwork does not simply replicate what he sees in Riyadh — he adds layers of his own interpretation to it while capturing its Saudi essence: “Most of these paintings are imaginary. All these Saudi Arabian scenes don’t really exist but it makes me happy that people still find familiarity with them.”

He says that he has received encouraging feedback from the local community: “I’d say it’s always amusing when I draw a scene of Riyadh and get some people telling me they almost recognize the location, but they don’t (know) where exactly.”

According to Makshoush, art is important for society because it teaches us about ourselves: “Especially now when everything is moving and changing so fast, it’s important to see and understand what people felt like during a specific time. What things looked like, what people felt like, what was the mood, how people saw things … art is the best way to answer these questions.”

 


Tabuk visual arts forum highlights Arab creativity

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
Updated 02 March 2024
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Tabuk visual arts forum highlights Arab creativity

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)
  • The forum’s primary objective was to highlight the talents of Arab artists, and foster a “dynamic exchange of ideas and skills between international participants and local artists in Tabuk”

RIYADH: The inaugural Tabuk International Forum for Visual Arts, hosted by the Colors of Art club, a division of the national hobby portal, Hawi, presented a diverse array of creative endeavors from 30 artists from across the Arab world.

The two-day event, which ended March 2, showcased more than 100 artworks in genres ranging from realism to abstraction and contemporary expressionism, and attracted participants from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq, Oman, and the UAE.

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

The forum’s primary objective, according to the organizers, was to highlight the talents of Arab artists, and foster a “dynamic exchange of ideas and skills between international participants and local artists in Tabuk.”

Additionally, the forum, which includes workshops and discussions, was intended to “bolster the status of the arts within the GCC and wider Arab region.”

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

Club president Thanawa Al-Qurani underscored the forum’s emphasis on fostering cross-cultural exchange and praised the engagement among attendees and participants, positioning the event as a pivotal moment in shaping public appreciation for visual arts in Tabuk.

“The exhibition stands as a testament to the evolving artistic landscape, reflecting the burgeoning cultural dynamism in the realm of visual arts,” Al-Qurani said, according to a report from the Saudi Press Agency.

The two-day event featured over 100 artworks ranging from realism to abstraction to contemporary expressionism. (SPA)

“Featuring a diverse array of works spanning realism, impressionism, and abstraction, it bears witness to the artistic renaissance underway … underscoring the region’s vibrant and cohesive artistic vision,” she added.

Meanwhile, Omani artist Jamal Al-Jassasi, the SPA said, expressed his enthusiasm for the forum’s overarching goal of “promoting and elevating visual arts while nurturing cultural ties” in the Arab world.