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National Pavilion of Saudi Arabia

Part of the 16th International Venice Architecture Biennale

Initiated/Funded by: MISK Art Institute

Curated by: Jawaher Alsudairy/Dr.Sumayah Alsolaiman

Free space invites opportunity. It welcomes passersby, visitors and tenants. Once, open land accommodated independent settlement. Today, the consumption of space drives suburban growth. Within the peripheries, where development meets desert, the distinction between city edge and hinterland is blurred as bare expanses are punctured by swift development.

Over the past four decades, Saudi metropolitan centers have undergone rapid urbanization, with rural migration propelling built territories outwards. Settlement-driven growth produces disjointed, mono-functional, car-dependent neighborhoods connected by highways. In this state of fragmentation, over 40% of city land lies vacant. The wide distances between residential enclaves erode social ties and deplete natural resources.

As concerns about quality of life and spatial considerations propel national economic plans, recent design and policy interventions at the municipal level attempt to reverse sprawl and encourage density. Noteworthy proposals include:

taxation on vacant land, reduced gas subsidies, modified zoning, height limitations and public transport expansion.

This reckoning of urbanization has emphasized the role design can play in shaping social life and rebuilding community. Saudi cities are seeking to steer development inward and repurpose empty lots into convivial public spaces that allow for walkability and human interaction. Such developments are directly transforming the architectural landscape of Saudi’s urban centers, as iconic structures rise on the skyline.

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program: national pavilion

location: sale d'armi, venice. italy

duration: 13 weeks

collaborator: weexhibit, resin srl, edge of arabia, squint opera

year: 2018

status: completed

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