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Inside the New 17,000 Sq Meter Art Center in Jeddah

Courtesy of Art Jameel

Since the crowning of Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has successfully shifted its focus to the arts and technology, in order to nurture the Gulf country’s growing cultural scene. Shortly after declaring plans to open over 300 cinemas across the country by May, The Kingdom has just unveiled plans to open a new multidisciplinary art center in Jeddah in 2019. Commissioned by Art Jameel, a non-profit organization (founded by Hassan Jameel’s family) that “supports artists and creative communities”, Hayy, which means neighborhood in Arabic, is a three-story, 17,000 sq meter, multidisciplinary space that will serve as an incubator for Saudi Arabia’s budding creative community.

“Hayy has been in-development as a concept for many years,” Antonia Carver, Director of Art Jameel tells “The Jameel family come from Jeddah, and Art Jameel has long had a base there, and been engaged in public projects in the city (the Jeddah Sculpture Museum, the Jameel House of Traditional Arts), so it seemed totally appropriate to launch a complex that brings together for the first time the full breadth of the creative industries – from theater and performance through to art, design, and even entrepreneurship.”

Courtesy of Art Jameel

Along with being multidisciplinary, Hayy is also multi-generational. “The whole point of such a Hub is to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds. With the presence of art, design, comedy, filmmaker, and entrepreneurship, we think Hayy will have particular appeal to young people, but this doesn’t mean they won’t be bringing their parents and grandparents,” says Carver.

Conceived by award winning architects Ibda Design (the creatives behind D3), when it opens mid-2019, Hayy will feature 12 different art organizations, exhibition halls, theaters, studios, and event spaces. There will also be workshops, classes,
meetings, art exhibitions, theater shows, outdoor film screenings, plus the café, and restaurant (there’s always time for coffee and cake, after all).

What’s more, the contemporary building references centuries-old traditions of Islamic and Saudi architecture— such as walkways that connect and a courtyard that all the rooms look out onto. “It’s hard to single out aspects of the design that we’re most proud of as it’s such a cohesive complex,” Carver tells Vogue Arabia.

Courtesy of Art Jameel

As for the main goal: “We’re hoping that the fantastic explosion of interest in the arts in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will encourage youth to get involved, and that gradually local artists and art movements will find their way into the curriculum.”

Art Jameel’s current initiatives include running heritage arts schools and restoration programmes, plus a broad range of arts and educational initiatives for all ages. Additionally, a Jameel Arts Center is set to open in Dubai later this year. Art Jameel already has a presence in the UAE, with a temporary space at AlSerkal Avenue.

When asked about how Hayy plans to mark its opening in 2019, Carver puts it simply: “Watch this space.”

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