As this year’s media partner, Arab News hosted a panel discussion at the 11th Real Estate Development Summit – Saudi Arabia/Europe Edition in Barcelona, highlighting the Kingdom’s heritage, sustainable development and Vision 2030.
Arab News journalist Lama Alhamawi moderated the panel discussion, titled “Post-Modern Architecture – Hijazi & Salmani Architecture”, during the second day of the summit, which was held at the Barceló Sants hotel.
Dr. Christopher Drew, Director of Sustainability at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, joined the panel as speakers; Dipesh Patel, director at BDP Pattern; and Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director of Roar.
Speakers discussed the traditional architectural styles seen in the Kingdom, including Hijazi and Salmani architecture, and ways to preserve the cultural integrity of heritage while creating modern, livable cities.
“Salmani’s architecture was created by the Crown Prince’s father, King Salman, and its overall intention is to preserve the architecture of the area,” Patel said.
He shared that he works with ROSHN, the Kingdom’s national real estate developer, to create projects that fall under Salmani styles of architecture.
“Salmani’s architecture has a series of values such as authenticity, human-centered livability, innovation and sustainability,” Patel said. He explained that the first step is a thorough research and collection of guidelines for the Salmani code.
“We’re trying to tell a story and a narrative based on some sort of memory trace of Salmani and historic buildings, but something modern,” Patel explained.
Dean, who has worked in the Gulf region for over 20 years, highlighted the uniqueness of the Hijazi architectural style and the factors that set it apart.
“Unlike Najdi, in Hijazi architecture there are many more elements with Persian and Egyptian influences; they are vertical structures that are mostly in light tones,” she said. “We need to be sensitive and sensible when designing communities,” she added.
The panel also discussed some of the giga-projects carried out by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiatives.
Dean highlighted her experience at AlUla and the many sustainability initiatives she witnessed there. She raised the issue of human intervention and asked panel members if a natural landscape like AlUla requires architectural intrusion.
Drew stressed the need for management but minimal human intervention. “You have to manage human intervention in such a way that it goes unnoticed,” he said.
Alhamawi said human intervention is needed to preserve historic sites and landscapes and accommodate the growing tourism industry in an organic and non-intrusive way.
“There are certain areas that require this level of development for architects to come; for example, the Starbucks outlet in AlUla is natural, it is made to look like a traditional village and does not look like a Starbucks at all,” she said.
“Another example is the open-air library (Jabal Ikmah) in AlUla; there are ancient carvings there and if you look closely you will see modern Arabic letters there, so you can see modern influences.
“That’s where development and architecture have to come in, to create that barrier and protect that site; if we leave it untouched, it’s not always the best,” Alhamawi said.
Panel members also discussed ways to contribute to one of the main goals of Vision 2030 – developing human capital to compete globally.
Dean, who is working with the Public Investment Fund to develop a training academy in Riyadh, said: “With the PIF, the training academy we are working on, it is about unlocking human capital and potential found among Saudi nationals. .”
“There is incredible talent here, like everywhere else in the world; we need to incubate and cultivate that talent,” she said.
The session ended with questions from the audience on sustainable development and architectural initiatives in the Kingdom.