Architectural Digest (UAE)
Brick by Brick
Curated by Bricklab, a new exhibition highlights the early urbanisation of Jeddah in myriad ways
Discussions about the merits and appropriateness of architecture in Saudi Arabia tend to focus on the glass-and-steel towers rapidly piercing the Riyadh skyline or the impact of more low-key interventions at sensitive sites such as AlUla and the Red Sea. But a thought-provoking exhibition is looking back and exploring the urban development of Jeddah between 1938 and 1962.
Curated by architecture and design studio Bricklab, the first edition of Saudi Modern has been evocatively staged at Dar Tamer in the coastal city’s Al Sharafiya District. The 1950s house was renovated for the purpose of the exhibition and serves as the backdrop for exhibits which spotlight 13 properties around Jeddah, including the Green Palace, the Printing and Publishing Establishment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Air Pilgrims’ Accommodation, which is at risk of being demolished.
“The exhibition was born out of a desire to better understand Jeddah’s urban history as it transitioned from a modest walled town to a sprawling metropolis,” explains Abdulrahman Gazzaz, who co-founded Bricklab with his brother Turki. “It reveals early attitudes towards modernisation, cultural identity, and the local vernacular.”
Works by contemporary architects and artists (including Dima Srouji, Aziz Jamal and Lina Gazzaz) will be put on display throughout the run of the exhibition and there’s a lively talks programme. As well as stimulating cultural conversations among visitors, Saudi Modern has bolder ambitions: the organisers hope to raise awareness, influence local policies pertaining to the preservation of modern heritage structures and motivate property developers and owners to reuse spaces. Until 20th December at Tamer House, Jeddah; brick-lab.com