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IRTH: A Dynamic Legacy. The National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia at Venice Architecture Biennale 2023

The Team

In an awe-inspiring showcase, the National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia gracefully unfolds its third participation at the prestigious 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Entitled, IRTH, the Saudi Pavilion is an ode to materiality and the vernacular by architect AlBara Saimaldahar, curators Basma and Noura Bouzo, and assistant curators Jou Pabalate and Cyril Zammit.

Delving into the essence of Saudi Arabian architecture, this transcendent journey navigates the realms of past, present, and future. IRTH, a reverential Arabic term meaning “legacy,” emerges as an emblematic reflection of the Biennale’s theme, “The Laboratory of the Future.” It explores the harmonious interplay between the tangible and intangible facets of materials. By unraveling this symbiotic relationship, the Saudi Pavilion evokes an introspective exploration of how architectural elements shape our perception, forging an intimate connection between inhabitants and their surrounding spaces. The curatorial team also purports the future of architecture as a collaborative endeavor between interdisciplinary practitioners and end users in creating a dynamic legacy.

Co-curators Basma and Noura Bouzo, co-founders of &bouqu creative and cultural consultancy firm, shares, ”Our intention was to bring to surface the narratives embedded materials and also, the immaterial. And with that, celebrate the different perspectives of practitioners on the building blocks of tomorrow.”

Architect AlBara Saimaldahar, managing partner of Dahr Studio, proudly represents the Saudi Pavilion stating “The journey through the Pavilion’s three main structures begins by passing beneath six arches as authentic gateways… fades until it disappears.”

Commissioned by the Architecture and Design Commission under the Ministry of Culture, the Saudi Pavilion takes its place at the Arsenale – Sale d’Armi, captivating audiences from May 20th to November 26th, 2023. “We are proud of the third participation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to be in the 18th edition of the Venice Biennale for Architecture… understanding and dialogue.” – Dr. Sumayah Al Solaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Commission.

The Saudi Pavilion embraces a multi-dimensional approach, inviting visitors to embark on a transformative journey. Immerse yourself in the confluence of nostalgia, heritage, and perpetual innovation as the architectural visionary, AlBara Saimaldahar, deftly fuses traditional motifs from Al-Balad, the Historic Jeddah, and metamorphoses them into fluid forms that transcend time. The Pavilion’s design eloquently captures the essence of Saudi craftsmanship, infusing it with a contemporary edge, and ushering forth a dialogue on the evolving nature of architectural legacy.

At the pulsating heart of IRTH lies a transcendent chamber, meticulously crafted to ignite the sense. Step into this ethereal sanctuary, a sensorial tapestry that weaves together scents and sight. The fragrance, representing nostalgia and the unseen is a cultural derivative, carefully designed specifically for the Pavilion. It consists of lavender, frankincense, and myrrh. It results into a delicate dance in the air, conjuring vivid memories and transporting visitors to the nexus of tradition and innovation.

A 3D printed clay column, gracefully illuminated by ethereal light projections, casts a celestial aura, enveloping the Pavilion in an otherworldly glow. This luminous masterpiece transcends mere aesthetics, embodying the profound connection between nature and artifice. After the conclusion of the Architecture Biennale, this transcendent artwork will be submerged in the depths of the Red Sea, serving as a catalyst for the emergence of a vibrant marine ecosystem.

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