Melissa Gronlund / May 18, 2018

Meet the Saudi architects making their debut at the Venice architecture biennale

Saudi Arabia is participating in the Venice architecture biennale for the first time, in a pavilion commissioned by the Misk Art Institute, the foundation set up by Crown Prince Moham­med bin Salman and run by Ahmed Mater.
The pavilion is made up of six spaces designed by the young Jeddah-based architects Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz, brothers who collaborate as the studio Bricklab. They present “an introduction to the major urban centres in Saudi Arabia and how the oil boom has affected their growth”, says Abdulrahman Gazzaz, the elder of the two. “Jeddah, as the port city, with its long history as the gateway to the holy cities; Makkah, as the religious capital; Riyadh, as the government capital; and Damman, as the centre of the oil industry.”
Right now, he continues, “a lot of changes are happening. We have this space in between what it was and what it is and what is becoming. It’s a fascinating point in the history of Saudi Arabia.”
'In Saudi, there is a stronger sense of community'
The title for the pavilion,  Spaces in Between , looks not only at changes to the kingdom, but also at the fact that Saudi cities are a patchwork of spaces. Because urbanisation in Saudi Arabia was spurred on by the oil boom, its cities are characterised by sprawl, built with cars in mind rather than the slow pace of foot traffic.
“The combination of sand and resin reflects two primordial conditions of Saudi Arabia as a nation: its oil economy and its desert landscape,” Turki explains. “Even though there’s a lot of diversity around the kingdom in terms of natural environments and climates, the desert comes to the foreground when one recalls the Gulf or Saudi Arabia in particular.”
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