Islamic Arts Biennale by OMA

Islamic Arts Biennale

The first edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale brings together a mix of ancient artefacts and contemporary artworks, displayed over 120,000 square meters of exhibition spaces, taking over the SOM-designed Western Hajj Terminal.

The OMA-designed scenography divides the exhibition space into two complementary parts:
(1) A choreographed trajectory through a sequence of newly built galleries allows visitors a progressive sense of orientation as they move from one room to another.

Inspired by the concept of the Qiblah – the direction Muslims face when they pray – the exhibits manifest gradually in a journey from darkness to light, starting in a dimly lit room filled with 17th-century astrolabes – used to calculate the Qiblah.

Concluding in the bright space hosting an installation which incorporates the First Saudi Door of the Ka’bah in Makkah, installed during the reign of King Abdul Aziz.

(2) Under the terminal’s canopy, a desert-like landscape alludes to the journey of Hijrah – Prophet Mohamed’s journey from Makkah to Madinah.

Slopes and slanted walls of various heights, arranged in relation to the geometry of the existing structure, have been built to display the artworks, creating a sense of exploration throughout the visit.

Two freestanding pavilions act as reference points in the open landscape, exhibiting artefacts from Makkah and Madinah. In contrast to the rough atmosphere outside, the exhibits in the two pavilions are embedded in a bright, diaphanous screen wrapping the perimeter of the walls.

Independent from the theme of the Biennale, a separate gallery named AlMadar, or The Orbit, features items from twelve local and international institutions including Kuwait’s Al Sabah Collection of Islamic art, together with an exhibition that pays homage to the Hajj Terminal – both celebrating their 40th anniversary. Source by OMA.

  • Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  • Architect: OMA
  • Partner-in-Charge: Iyad Alsaka
  • Associate-in-Charge: Kaveh Dabiri
  • Project Architect: Saskia Simon
  • Team: Anna Bozek, Parinaz Eslami, Luigi Ferretti, Milyausha Garaeva, Benedetta Gatti, Gaetano Giordano, Sarah eI-Harouny, Hans Larsson, Laura Martinelli, Filippo Rispoli and Yushang Zhang
  • Lighting Design: Les éclaireurs
  • Scenography Technical Design: The Space Factory
  • Client: Diriyah Biennale Foundation, Saudi Arabia Ministry of Culture
  • Program: Scenography 70,000 m2: Interior exhibition space 10,000 m2; Landscape and outdoor exhibition space 60,000 m2; Total site 120,000 m2
  • Year: 2023
  • Photographs: Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy of OMA