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Eye of Dubai
Tourism & Hospitality | Wednesday 24 November, 2021 12:13 am |

“SAUDI MODERN” Exhibition Highlights the Early Urbanization of the City of Jeddah

JEDDAH – The exhibition titled Saudi Modern launched at the 1950’s Dar Tamer in Al Sharafiya District. The house was renovated for the purpose of the exhibition, which tackles the narrative of architecture and urban development in the coastal city between 1938 and 1962.


Saudi Modern is a multidisciplinary initiative founded by Jeddah-based architecture and design studio Bricklab.


This project aims to unfold the narrative of modern development since the former decades of the 20th century by focusing on architecture and urbanism across the different cities, towns, and villages in the Kingdom.


Over 13 properties throughout Jeddah are being highlighted, including the Green Palace, the Printing and Publishing Establishment, the at-risk-to-be demolished Air Pilgrims’ Accommodation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the King Saud Palace Complex. 


The exhibition tells the story of modern development since the early decades of the twentieth century by focusing on architecture and urbanism in the Kingdom's various cities, towns, and villages. It attempts to reach a better understanding regarding collective modern heritage and develop an articulated discourse around it by studying individual projects, buildings, and developments from this time period.


Commenting on this unique exhibition, Abdulrahman Gazzaz, partner/ director of Bricklab said :“It all started with a question, what is the genius loci of Jeddah? what is this distinct character that makes it what it is? it surely isn’t only albalad, there's a fascinating set of architectural styles that emerged as the city moved away from vernacular building traditions. The use of concrete has dominated our streets and international styles have infiltrated the language our urban fabric. It is this very fact that is long forgotten and removed from our collective understanding of our cities; Saudi Modern strives to acknowledge history in a boundless manner.”


Meanwhile his brother Turki Gazzaz added “The exhibition on Jeddah is a first step to better understand modern development in the built environment and the manner in which it has affected social change. As we approach the centennial of the discovery of oil, a critical inquiry into this pivotal period becomes instrumental in articulating ideas around our cultural heritage”


Zayd M. Zahid, CEO Zahid Group, and the main sponsor of the exhibition said, "Exploring Jeddah’s many facets delivers a fascinating journey through time, shaped by the diverse and enriching influences that a lifetime of different cultures, people, and activities have had on this charming city.


The artists and team at Saudi Modern, have done a wonderful job of capturing a pivotal period in Jeddah’s development. A timely initiative to refresh our memories and educate us, as the Kingdom embarks on its next phase of modernization."


Works by contemporary artists and architects will be put on display throughout the exhibition run, which ends in mid-December. They include both acclaimed and emerging artists: Alaa Tarabzouni, Ahmed Mater, Filwa Nazer, Nasser Al Salem, Zainab Alireza, Dima Srouji, Aziz Jamal, and Lina Gazzaz.


The exhibition, which is spearheaded by project manager, Rasha Zaki Farsi, aims to raise awareness of the nation's modern heritage both locally and internationally, influence local policies pertaining to the preservation of modern heritage structures and motivate developers and property owners to readapt and reuse spaces. It will create an open source archive for research, bridge the social and intellectual divide between the old and young generations and collaborate with academic institutions to disseminate knowledge on the subject.


She said “Saudi Modern is an initiative that documents, studies, and analyzes the progression of Saudi architecture since the 1940s and celebrates it through artistic interpretation. Architectural designs are explored within Saudis unique cultural and philosophical context.”


“As the past is what moves us forward, Saudi Modern aims to provide an authentic outlook on Saudi architecture's tangible history as a valuable resource for future generations to build on.”


It is part of a larger study of the Kingdom's history into modernity. It is an experimental approach to urban and historical research in which artistic practices and academic methodologies are used to communicate the period's contemporary relevance. Three themes were highlighted: Architecture, Urbanism and Contemporary Art. Talks and discussions are scheduled on a weekly basis to continue the conversation group of professionals and experts in architecture and urban planning.  


Additional supporters of the exhibition include, Tamer Group: Sa’aid Initiative, Ain Al Aziziya Endowment, the Saudi Art Council, Niche Arabia and Goethe Institute – Riyadh.




Bricklab Studio was established in Jeddah in 2015. It is dedicated to the examination of the design discipline as it intersects with the social, political, economic, and cultural networks that implicitly form Saudi built environment. It has curated and organized many key events such as the 2018 Saudi Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the Saudi Arts Council 21,39 Summer Edition, the Misk Art Institute’s Art Book Jeddah 2018, to mention but a few.


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