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The first National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia responded to the Biennale's overarching theme of Freespace with an exhibition entitled Spaces in Between. Architects Bricklab and curators Jawaher Al-Sudairy and Sumayah Al-Solaiman considered the urban and social implications of five decades of rapid, oil-fueled, car-oriented development in Saudi Arabia. 

Over the past five decades, Saudi’s metropolitan centers have undergone rapid urbanization, propelled by rural migration that has extended built territories outwards. Settlement-driven growth has produced disjointed, mono-functional, car-dependent neighborhoods connected by highways. This translates to a state of fragmentation, with over 40% of land within cities vacant. The wide distances created between residential enclaves have thus eroded social ties and continue to deplete natural resources

Co-curator, Jawaher Al-Sudairy 

Spaces in Between is the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia's presentation at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia


Free space invites opportunity. It welcomes passersby, visitors and tenants to sit, rest and reside. Once, open land offered endless space for independent settlement. Today, such informal consumption of space drives suburban growth in most cities. Within urban peripheries, where development meets open desert, the distinction between city edge and hinterland is blurred as bare expanses are punctured by spontaneous development.

Over the past five decades, Saudi’s metropolitan centers have undergone rapid urbanization, propelled by rural migration that has extended built territories outwards. Settlement-driven growth has produced disjointed, mono-functional, car-dependent neighborhoods connected by highways.

This translates to a state of fragmentation, with over 40% of land within cities vacant. The wide distances created between residential enclaves have thus eroded social ties and continue to deplete natural resources.

As questions of quality of life and spatial considerations take center stage in national economic plans, including the National Transformation Plan 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030, design and policy interventions at the municipal level attempt to reverse sprawl and create density. The most noteworthy of these interventions include: announcing taxation on vacant land, reconsidering zoning and height limitations on buildings, building more public parks, constructing public transportation infrastructure and instituting transit-oriented development.

This recent reckoning of the challenges of urbanization has emphasized the role that design can play in influencing people’s behaviors and preferences, shaping social life and rebuilding communities. Saudi cities are seeking to steer development inward and repurpose empty lots into public and convivial spaces that allow for walkability, human interaction and mixing in an attempt to improve the quality of life. These developments are directly transforming the architectural landscape of Saudi’s urban centers, and include the proliferation of iconic structures that rise on the skyline.

In this exhibition, architects Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz, founders of Bricklab, examine the social implications of architecture. Visitors are invited to explore Saudi cities and architecture through vignettes that engage visitors with the impact of space and design. The installation consists of connected cylinder-shaped modules, ranging in size. Each module is individually dedicated to a component of the overarching theme, ’Spaces in Between,’ such as vacancy, sprawl, isolation and inclusion. The cylinders are constructed using resin, a petrochemical derivative. The choice of material aims to highlight petroleum as a component of sprawl, considering the extent to which petroleum has propelled urbanization in Saudi Arabia as well as shaped the form of cities and architecture in the country.

May 24 – November 25 2018 

Read more about The National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia, the permanent home of the kingdom at La Biennale di Venezia, commissioned by Misk Art Institute

Location
Sale d'Armi North, Arsenale

Curators
Jawaher Al-Sudairy
Dr. Sumaya Al-Solaiman

Architects
Abdulrahman & Turki Gazzaz
(Bricklab)

Highlight coverage

Download the Spaces in Between publication Space_in_Between_Misk_Mockup-4.jpg#asset:949


The Pavilion

1. A Story of Sprawl

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Over the past five decades, Saudi urban centers have undergone rapid urbanization. Such undeterred expansion of low-density residential neighborhoods, coupled with pervasive dependence on cars and subsidized gas, has produced a fragmented urban landscape in which 40% of city land remains undeveloped.

The four major metropolitan areas of Riyadh, Makkah, Jeddah and Dammam all show the prevalence of vacant land and predominance of the highway – resulting in expanded urban boundaries.

2. A Story of Sprawl

Growth in Saudi Arabia’s major metropolitan areas has accelerated exponentially. From seed urban centers of approximately one square kilometer, 1000-fold expansion resulted in unrestrained spatial consumption. The perpetual growth of these cities over time is animated to demonstrate the speed of development.

3. From the Car Seat 

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Snapchat heatmaps of user-generated data combine the geography of place with social interaction. The maps reveal a socially-generated city, highlighting concentrations of activity and places of gathering.

Unfiltered views onto everyday urban life underscore the predominance of the car as the means to experience and consume the city.

4. From the Car Seat

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Saudi cities were built for the car; today they are encountered through its windows. Although it allows freedom of movement, it can also create a feeling of isolation.

Here, through recordings, visitors experience firsthand the visual and auditory quality of driving through major urban centers. 

5. Isolation and Inclusion

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Architecture and urbanism determine quality of life in cities. Space, whether public or private, can be inclusive, bringing people together. It can also be exclusive, keeping people out.

This space offers the opportunity to be part of a group and experience the soundscapes of social gatherings in Saudi cities, as well as creating spaces of isolation.

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The Forum

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Urban sprawl has resulted in vacancy and underutilization of land. The distinction between city center and city edge becomes unclear.

Architects

Abdulrahman Gazzaz
Abdulrahman Gazzaz

Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1985
Lives and works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

www.brick-lab.com
Turki Gazzaz
Turki Gazzaz

Born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1988
Lives and works in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

www.brick-lab.com

Curators

Jawaher Al Sudairy 1
Jawaher Al-Sudairy

Lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Dr  Sumayah Al Solaiman
Dr. Sumayah Al-Solaiman

Lives and works in Dammam, Saudi Arabia

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