Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

View of IRTH, National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at the 18th International Venice Architecture Biennale, 2023. Courtesy of Ministry of Culture.

May 18, 2023
May 20–November 26, 2023
Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Arsenale, Sale d’Armi

The National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia explores the legacy of materials at the 18th International Venice Architecture Biennale.

The Saudi Pavilion will mark its third participation at the 18th International Venice Architecture Biennale with its project IRTH, which means “legacy”in Arabic.

The Saudi Pavilion will be represented by Architect AlBara Saimaldahar, Founder and Creative Director of Jeddah-based design studio Dahr, alongside curators Basma and Noura Bouzo, the sister Co-founders of &bouqu, a creative and cultural consultancy based in Riyadh.

Commissioned by the Architecture and Design Commission, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Pavilion will be on display at the Arsenale—Sale d’Armi from May 20 to November 26, 2023.

Aligning with this year’s theme “The Laboratory of the Future,” the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia will delve into the tangible and intangible qualities of materials in relation to Saudi architecture, offering an interactive journey that uses the notion of earth as a starting point for exploration and organic material experimentation. IRTH is a multi-part project that will invite visitors to experience the curatorial vision from multiple perspectives allowing them to engage with the vernacular of Saudi architecture and understand its core building blocks. The project aims to present the empirical design as a window into the essentials, whereby visitors will get a chance to go on a raw sensory journey that urges them to draw their own introspective conclusions without any biases.

Curators Basma and Noura Bouzo said, “Irth is a transliteration of the Arabic word that can either mean “legacy”or “treasured possession,” which encapsulates the intent of our curatorial vision for the Pavilion. Materials within an architectural context have narratives embedded within them, telling us about a nation’s inhabitants and how they responded to the world around them. Likewise, we recognized that a dynamic legacy is at play—one that is built upon by collective and continuous efforts of institutions and grassroot practitioners alike.”

Analyzing the overarching theme of the Architecture Biennale 2023—Laboratory of the Future—the Saudi team used a two-pronged approach in incorporating its ideology and exploration within the Pavilion. The first revolves around methodology, with architect AlBara Saimaldahar reflecting on the use of basic building blocks alongside innovative techniques to create the Pavilion’s form and provide an experiential interpretation of IRTH. The second approach focuses on the content of the exhibition that will serve as an exposition on the current and future state of materiality of Saudi architecture.

Dr. Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission, said, “The National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia continues to support and celebrate the Kingdom’s thriving talents who will be showcasing unique architectural concepts and ideas at the International Architecture Exhibition this year. The Pavilion will provide a place for research and exploration, which will allow us to build new partnerships, engage in dialogue, and exchange thoughts and ideas. We are proud of this year’s exhibitors and we’re delighted to be able to share their work with wider audiences.”  

The Saudi Pavilion will invite visitors to be part of the material exploration and contribute to the ongoing legacy for future generations. It aims to be a means to capturing the anthropological and historic aspects of architecture, while urging audiences to contemplate on how explorations from the past and present can offer answers to the conundrums of the future. 

Saudi Arabia Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
May 18, 2023

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