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Competition: Hayy Cinema, Jeddah

Art Jameel has launched an open international contest for Saudi Arabia’s first arthouse cinema (Deadline: 22 March)

Open to all architects, interior designers and cinema specialists – the single-stage competition seeks innovative proposals for a new 200-seat arthouse cinema in Jeddah which will be the first constructed in the kingdom following the lifting of a 35-year cinema ban in 2018.

The winning scheme will be built inside the 17,000m² Hayy Creative Hub which is designed by Dubai-based Ibda Architects and planned to complete in 2020. The contest comes just three months after Serie Architects of London completed a new ‘Kunsthalle-inspired’ venue for Art Jameel in Dubai.

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibdaa Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

According to the brief: ‘As the first art house cinema in Saudi Arabia, the space is positioned to be unique in program and design, and to invigorate a thriving cultural scene in Jeddah. It will stand out within a truly remarkable complex of social and artistic exchange.

‘The aim of the competition is to award the winning design team with a contract for the detailed design development of the scheme. The design team will then supervise the construction of the developed scheme by coordinating with the wider project team.’

Jeddah is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia and the principle gateway for visitors to both Mecca and Medina. The city is the commercial centre of the country and the site of the world’s tallest building under construction – the 1km-high Kingdom Tower by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

Cinema location within the Hayy Creative Hub

Cinema location within the Hayy Creative Hub

Cinema location within the Hayy Creative Hub

Art Jameel was established in 2003 to promote arts and education across the Middle East. Hayy – meaning neighbourhood in Arabic – is a 17,000m² cultural incubator complex being developed by Art Jameel and its sister organisation Community Jameel, and is understood to be the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia.

The new cinema will occupy a 400m² space in the northern part of the complex with an entrance fronting a communal foyer. Proposals must include space for up to 200 viewers, a ticketing stand, cloakrooms, and a concessions stand.

Submissions should include floor plans, interior elevations, 3D renderings, a materials palette and a descriptive text. The jury will feature an architect, artist, and film maker along with a technical consultant and a representative from the client.

The overall winner, to be announced in June, will either be contracted to deliver the winning scheme or will receive a $15,000 prize. A second prize of $10,000 and third prize of $5,000 will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 22 March

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Antonia Carver

The director of the Jameel Arts Centre discusses her ambitions for the competition

Antonia Carver

Antonia Carver

Antonia Carver

Why are your holding an international contest for a new art house cinema within the Hayy Creative Hub?

Hayy: Creative Hub, where the cinema is situated, is a neighbourhood that aims to bring together and nurture artists and creatives of all stripes. It will act as an incubator for homegrown talent and original ideas – and the design competition is a manifestation of that spirit. Art Jameel has a track record of managing and curating open calls for commissions, and often the process can open up opportunities for upcoming talent, and some real surprises.

What is your vision for the new art house cinema venue?

Cinemas have only recently come back to Saudi Arabia after something of a 30-year hiatus, even though Saudis have continued to make their own films – an example being Raed Alsemari’s Dunya’s Day, which just a couple of days ago won the jury prize for short film at Sundance. This long absence from public screenings allows for a re-imagining of what a cinema can be, and how architecture and design can contribute to the beloved ritual of watching films together.

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibdaa Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

Hayy: Cinema will provide a much-needed space for screening independent film – whether from Saudi Arabia, the region, or the world. It could host film festivals, forums and will work in tandem with Hayy: Learning, an educational programme geared towards nurturing artistic and filmmaking talent in Jeddah.

We are looking for an original concept that provides a contemporary experience but one that is rooted in its local context, without prompting literal renditions of assumed design cues. If possible, the materials used should be ecologically sustainable and energy efficient. We’re open to all ideas.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is open to all architects and interiors designers – really, it’s the concept that’s key. We haven’t stipulated a certain level of experience or achievement, and hope this encourages applications from upcoming practices, as well as more seasoned practitioners. Applicants need not have worked on cinema projects before, but they should be ready to challenge themselves, and apply concepts and technologies they’ve gained experience of elsewhere. We’re aware that there’s a tremendous history of respect for architects and engineers in the Gulf and Arab world, and a thriving contemporary architectural community, so we’re looking forward to many applications coming in from local and regional colleagues.

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibdaa Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

Hayy Creative Hub by Ibda Design

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Art Jameel has a track record of launching commissions and prize competitions, and our interest in architecture and design spans from the traditional – for example, running heritage institutes in Cairo and Jeddah, and documenting and preserving the balad in those cities – to the contemporary. We are collaborating currently on a project with curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Forensic Architecture and Yazda, which appears at the Milan Triennale next month.

In addition to this Hayy: Cinema competition, Art Jameel has a long-standing partnership with the V&A, which hosts the Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. In 2018 Art Jameel also launched a multi-year, multidisciplinary commissions programme, anchored at Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai, which opened in November 2018 (and was designed by Serie Architects, with further consultation by Ibda design, who are also leading on Hayy: Creative Hub). Two large-scale capital projects in three years is enough for us for now, but we remain highly invested in architecture and design debates, from preservation through to commission.

Are there any other recent artistic cinema projects you have been impressed by?

We’re big fans of the NAAS network of alternative Arab screens, who work tirelessly – and for the love of original cinema – to ensure that audiences in the Arab world have access to homegrown stories, as well as innovative films from around the world.