Double award for the Addiriyah Contemporary Art Center

Creating a space in which Saudi contemporary art finds its highest expression: this is the purpose underlying the project signed by the Roman studio Schiattarella Associati, which won two international prizes.

Experimenting workshops, small apartments for artists, wide exhibition areas are just few of the many features of the new Addiriyah Contemporary Art Center in Saudi Arabia.

The construction has recently won both an award in the category "Concept" at the Iconic Awards 2016, the major European competition held by the German Design Council, and also an Honorable Mention at the American Architecture Prize, one of the most prestigious competitions of overseas architecture.

The Addirriyah Art Center project, assigned in 2014 to Schiattarella Associati as a result of an international contract held by the Arriyadh Development Authority, has been completed at the executive level this year and is about to be put out to tender for the construction.

The Art Center is a perfect continuum of the design concept of the studio, in which the architectural intervention is always conscious, respectful and fully integrated into the historical, cultural and environmental context.

The peculiarity of the place - full of nature and historical memory, both changed but still latently present - required, even with several inspections, an accurate analysis of the ancient urban configurations, geometries, colors, materials and even the behavior of light and shadow. The selected area is in fact the slope of a rocky wall on which stood an ancient settlement that followed the Wadi line, on top of a sort of natural terrace which runs from north to south, and overlooks the surrounding valley over many farmlands and a lush palm grove, close to the edge of the modern city.

The Art Center is thus conceived as a harmonious definition of the border, with the aim of marking continuity between the natural environment and the built one. Demolishing the existing retaining wall in order to recover the natural form of the hill slope, the Centre becomes a “permeable” building complex offering a boardwalk-link for pedestrians up to the Sculpture Park to be built along the valley floor.

The complex is designed as an urban fragment, a construction system organized around a complex space which is the re-sewing element of the pre-existing urban context. The spaces between the volumes, in terms of size and configuration, take ancient Addiriyah dimensions, with its alleys and small squares. The geometry changes according to the shapes of landscape: it is therefore nature that guides the shape of the building and not vice versa.