Saudi sport minister hosts world football leaders at Saudi House in Qatar

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia and Italy celebrate 90 years of formal diplomatic relations, from architectural masterpieces to unique design innovations, the strong bonds of their friendship can be found in the bricks and mortar of their respective cities.

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The most prominent example of this collaboration is the Al-Balad Cultural Square, a permanent venue for the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, renovated by Rome-based architectural design firm Schiatarella Associati.

In the historic Diriyah district near Riyadh, Italian architect Amedeo Schiattarella, founder and chairman of the renowned firm, is responsible for Diriyah Art Futures, the world’s first digital art center focused on education, which will open next year.

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The 10,000-square-meter site will not only be a center for innovation, but also a tourist attraction full of hotels, restaurants, parks and coffee shops located in the historic site of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Blending into the natural landscape, the magnificent Mariah Concert Hall, with its 9,740 mirrors, was designed by Italian architectural firm Gio Forma and designed by architect Florian Boje with a captivating philosophy. (source)

Incidentally, Diriya has the Qasr Al-Hukm (Palace of Justice) renovated by the Italian architect Marco Albini in the mid-1970s.

In just a few years, the long-abandoned region of AlUla in the northwestern part of the kingdom has also been transformed into a fascinating living museum, attracting visitors from all over the world and becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

AlUla’s magnificent Maraya Concert Hall, a 9,740-mirror-covered building that allows it to blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape, was designed by architect Florian Boje of the Italian architectural firm Gio Forma.

Maraya is the first development under the Saudi Arabian Initiative’s ‘Travel Through Time’ master plan to preserve the Kingdom’s cultural oasis and explore the 200,000-year heritage at AlUla, which dates back to the Nabatean period.

As part of the Kingdom’s 2030 social reform and economic diversification goals, Maraya aims to raise awareness of the region’s cultural heritage and stunning geography.

Mariah Concert Hall’s connection to Italy does not end with its architecture. The venue regularly hosts concerts by Italian artists. Tenor Andreas Bocelli performed four times at the annual Winter Festival in Tantora.

The Great Mosque of Rome was heavily financed by King Faisal for almost 20 million euros and built by Italian and Arab architects. (source)

Gio Forma is responsible for the Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz Airport in AlUla and has submitted a proposal to upgrade the Al-Muazzam Fort Hotel in Tabuk, northwest Saudi Arabia.

Italy’s involvement in the kingdom’s infrastructure projects is not a recent phenomenon. Founded in 1959 as Impregilo, Milan-based engineering firm Webuild has been behind many of the kingdom’s sustainable infrastructure projects since 1966.

Led by CEO Pietro Salini, the firm has built several residential buildings and hospitals with sustainable water resources and architectural structures. His most famous work is the Kingdom Tower, a 41-story, 302.3-meter skyscraper in Riyadh’s Olaya district.

Webuild recently contributed to the design of the Riyadh Metro.

Pescara-based engineering firm Proger is another Italian company that has contributed to the Kingdom’s cultural life by curating Riyadh Art, Saudi Arabia’s biggest annual light festival, and turning the capital into an open-air gallery.

The 2022 festival is one of the world’s largest celebrations of light-based art, breaking six world records.

Saudi Arabia has left an indelible impact on Italy’s religious, social and cultural landscape, chief among them the Romanesque Cathedral, the largest in the Western world, which can accommodate 12,000 worshippers.

Faisal Khan allocated 20 million euros (21 million US dollars) to finance the construction of the mosque, which was designed and developed by Italian and Arab architects.

The design collaboration between Italy and Saudi Arabia does not end with architecture.

Recently, the first designers of Saudi Arabia’s 100 Brands Fashion Commission, which aims to support Saudi artists and place them on the global stage, have showcased their work with White Milano at Milan Fashion Week.

As the Kingdom diversifies its economy into leisure, hospitality and tourism, develops its creative industries, academic institutions and entertainment venues, and becomes a major regional hub for retail, dining and business, Saudi Arabian and Italian designers and architects and engineers will undoubtedly continue to flourish.


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