Jeddah-based interdisciplinary design studio Bricklab, founded by architect brothers Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz, has won an international design competition to design Hayy: Cinema, an independent cinema house screening local, regional and international films.
The contest was launched earlier this year by Art Jameel, an independent organisation that supports arts, education and heritage in the Middle East and the wider region. Bricklab beat more than 100 architects and designers from around the world who sent their entries. The other two finalists are Civil Architecture, a Kuwait- and Bahrain-based practice and Karim Nader Studio from Lebanon. The shortlisted proposals, and Bricklab’s winning proposal, were praised for their consideration of the history of regional cinema and their incorporation of elements designed to encourage the participation of the wider creative community with Hayy:Cinema.
The Jeddah-based design studio’s winning design expanded the role of what a cinema can be: besides a 200-seater main screen, Bricklab’s design incorporates an additional community screening room, audiovisual library, archive viewing rooms and educational space. The expanded picture house was inspired and informed by Bricklab’s extensive research into the history of cinema in the Gulf, and interviews with Saudi and regional actors, directors and producers. Hayy:Cinema is set to open its doors as part of Hayy:Creative Hub in winter 2020.
The architect duo said of the selection: “We are excited to contribute to this momentous project which will surely reshape the cultural landscape of the city of Jeddah and Saudi as a whole. We highly appreciate the alignment of our comprehensive community-focused vision with that of the team at Art Jameel. We hope to achieve a benchmark project in terms of design excellence which dovetails with outstanding programming.”
Hayy:Cinema will be located within Hayy:creative Hub, the first purpose-built venue for culture and creativity in Saudi Arabia, as the oil-rich country continues its progressive stance having recently launched a number of liberal initiatives such as allowing women to drive, attend concerts and have theatres. The kingdom has also opened up the country to tourists and launched a myriad of tourist projects, including many by starchitects such as Foster+Partners.
Founded in 2015 by Saudi brothers Abdulrahman and Turki Gazzaz, Bricklab explores the boundaries between artistic practice, material/civic research, and the built environment. Their projects span installations, interiors, architecture, and furniture. In 2018, they curated the inaugural Pavilion of Saudi Arabia titled Spaces in Between at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale; curated the first summer edition of 21,39 Jeddah Arts titled, Public/Private; and have exhibited works at the British Museum.
Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel, said: “Art Jameel is thrilled to be working alongside other colleagues in Saudi, including – for example – Ithra, and the Red Sea Film Festival, as well as the highly dynamic community of film creatives based in Jeddah and elsewhere, at this exciting moment of rebirth in Saudi cinema. We saw that Saudi was gaining a fleet of outstanding commercial cinemas and asked ourselves – as Art Jameel always does — how we could best contribute to the sector, and create opportunities for Saudi creatives and their audiences, from the ground up.”
Following a blind jury process, with each applicant represented only by a number; the panel included Wael Al Awar, principal and co-founder of ibda design, the architects of Hayy:Creative Hub; Faisal Baltyuor, CEO of the Saudi Film Council (SFC), a government body with a mandate to develop a vibrant film industry in Saudi Arabia; Butheina Kazim, co-founder of Cinema Akil, the first independent picture house in the Gulf, based in Dubai; and Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, partner at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).