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La Biennale di Venezia: 2 Female Architects Represent The Kingdom

Basmah Kaki and Hessa AlBader personify the range of excellent talent found in the region's booming architectural community.

Basmah Kaki and Hessa AlBader (L to R)

Saudi Arabia will be represented for a second time at La Biennale di Venezia. And two female architects will be representing the Kingdom at the Venetian event’s 17th International Architecture Exhibition. Basmah Kaki and Hessa AlBader will be exhibiting alongside Hussam Dakkak, another new generation creative, and working alongside Brooklyn-based curators Uzma Z. Rizvi and Murtaza Vali.

Taking place from May 2 until November 21, the International Architecture Exhibition theme this year is "How Will We Live Together?" And “Accommodations,” the Saudi exhibition, analyses a series of spatial and social encounters in which the histories, protocols and gestures of quarantine, hosting and housing in Saudi Arabia are intertwined.

The Saudi National Pavilion, situated once again within the Venetian Arsenale, has been commissioned by the Architecture and Design Commission. “The Saudi National Pavilion provides a platform for our nation’s thriving architectural community to share their creative vision with international audiences at one of the premier events for cultural exchange and dialogue,” said Dr Sumayah Al-Solaiman, CEO of the commission that has a range of programmes and initiatives to enhance and support a cultural eco system that embraces and boosts local talent. “This year’s exhibitors embody the diversity of talent emerging from our country. We are delighted to be able to host their work as we return to Biennale Architettura 2021 for the second time with a concept designed to stimulate discussion around the architectural implications of the last year.”

Here’s what to know about the two female exhibitors at the exciting event that can be simultaneously experienced in Venice and online.

Basmah Kaki: A Jeddah-based architect, Basmah works on a number of key cultural projects in the Kingdom. The Saudi is leading heritage work in UNESCO sites in Jeddah’s Al Balad and in AlUla, as well as working on a series of developments along the Red Sea Highway.

During her time at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and while working for Sir Peter Cook, Basmah, a graduate from The Architectural Association in London, worked on a series of high-profile projects in Europe and the Middle East. The RIBA Bronze Medal and the SOM Foundation UK Award award-winner is director and tutor of the AA Visiting School Makkah Program, which focuses on an in-depth urban study of the city. The organisation’s work has been displayed at the Sharjah Architecture Triennial 2019, among other international venues.

Hessa AlBader: Hessa is a Senior Project Manager at Wafra Real Estate, where her work ranges from curating and managing international design competitions and construction projects. The Kuwaiti has co-directed and tutored the AA Visiting School:Makkah vs Makkah and has participated in lectures and symposiums in Sharjah and other parts of the GCC. Armed with an architectural degree from The Architectural Association in London, Hessa has also served as a guest critic at the AA and Kuwait University.

About Studio Bound: The two architects are also behind Studio Bound, which they founded along with Hussam Dakkak in 2015. Working between London and the Gulf, it operates as a design studio and research lab. The studio works on projects in the private and public sectors with designers and researchers across many industries. At the moment, Studio Bound is leading a number of key projects in UNESCO heritage sites in Al Balad in Jeddah, and AlUla, as well as key projects along the Red Sea Highway. Meanwhile, the research lab focuses on the study of complex and unique urban contexts, aiming to bridge the design and academic disciplines.

Since its inception, Studio Bound has worked with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority and Art Jameel on a number of commissions.

The go-getting architects’ behind the brainchild have been invited to speak at Harvard University, The Global Heritage Fund. They have also contributed work to numerous publications, including the “Architectural Review” and “WTD.” 

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