March 4, 2024

Jo Mai Asian Culture

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New exhibition space adds to growing Saudi cultural and heritage zone | News

3 min read

Milan-based Giò Forma Studio has completed a new cultural facility, Design Space Al-Ula, in Saudi Arabia.

The building is located within the Al Jadidah Arts District, close to the ancient caravan city of Al-Ula, and 25km from Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site at Hegra, known for its ancient rock tombs.

The curator of Design Space Al-Ula is Sara Ghani, an architect and urban planner. Ghani said: “Design Space Al-Ula commits to celebrating Al-Ula’s natural history, its cultural heritage, and vernacular materials – inspiring sustainable futures that are rooted in place.

“Our ambition is to fuel the design economy, provide resources to designers to explore and experiment, and be a place for visitors to research, explore and connect with the processes behind Al-Ula’s design journey.”

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The building incorporates corten steel, glass, and polished concrete, and provides exhibition, workshop, and archive space.

The facility aims to foster collaboration among design professionals, students and academics, while also strengthening Al-Ula’s cultural economy.

The project forms part of a growing drive in the country to develop alternative approaches to architecture and sustainability, as well as a greater focus on indigenous Saudi architectural culture and traditions, contrasting with mega-projects, such as NEOM.

In a recent interview, Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO of the Saudi architecture and design commission, told BD: “Distilling Saudi [architecture] down to only NEOM doesn’t do it justice.”

Under Ghani’s direction, Design Space Al-Ula seeks to engage with emerging and established design professionals, exploring design through the lens of Al-Ula’s natural and cultural landscape. The institution intends to offer an inclusive space, covering various design disciplines, from architecture to product and graphic design, emphasising the broader role of design in the region’s character, quality of life, and economy.

The building will open with an inaugural exhibition, running from 15 February until 1 June. Entitled, Mawrid: Celebrating Inspired Design, and curated byGhani, the exhibition aims to showcase the design process behind recent Al-Ula-inspired projects.

The exhibition also features participants from the Al-Ula Design Award and the first edition of the Al-Ula Design Residency, including designers from Bahrain, Denmark, France, India, and Saudi Arabia.

The completion of Giò Forma Studio’s project follows the creation of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) in 2017, which was tasked with leveraging the region’s distinct cultural, heritage, and natural resources to convert it into a global tourism destination, with a target of accommodating two million visitors annually by 2035.

This initiative aligns with the objectives outlined in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Plan, which emphasises the promotion and development of tourism and leisure within the country.

Prior and Partners and Allies and Morrison were amongst the UK-based firms involved in developing the spatial strategy for the RCU. Prior and Partner’s contribution includes proposals for addressing the adverse impact of unsympathetic development over recent decades, and restoring the historic character of the landscape and built environment.

 > Also read: ‘Distilling Saudi down to only NEOM doesn’t do it justice’

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