An “architectural openness” that adds a modern and aesthetic touch to the homes of Saudis – (photos)

Riyadh: Porcelain in wood and gray stone covers the facade of the house of the Saudi Haitham Al-Madini, who added a swimming pool, lounge area, hammock and trees in the garden of his house to match the houses with modern designs that reflects an “architectural openness” that permeates the neighborhoods of Riyadh.

Architect: The building style (with small windows) “had a great social impact.. It contributed to the creation of a culture of closing yourself in.”

Less than two years ago, his house in the Al-Yasmeen neighborhood in the north of Riyadh, with a dark facade covered in traditional beige paint, and without any luxury amenities in its large yard, was like all other neighboring houses with small windows on his street, and in Saudi Arabia in general.

Houses designed in modern styles with colorful facades with larger than usual windows and glass facades are scattered, especially in the center and north of the capital.

“I had two options: either build a new house or restore the old one,” Al-Madini (52) told AFP. We chose to renovate the house because I am comfortable with the environment and my neighbors, not to mention the cost.”

After the yard of his house was barren, two Terminalia trees, imported from Thailand, surround the door of the house, while a yellow tree with its flowers is planted around two benches in the middle of a wooden table to create a favorite place for the city to sit after the sun’s heat subsided.

The task of designing houses in Saudi Arabia was the responsibility of contractors, not architects, who had lost any aesthetic touch.

The director of human resources, and father of seven, said as he walked across the floor covered with black pebbles, on which thick white porcelain was placed, “There is an optimal use of the spaces in the house . .. We have taken a step to improve our way of life.”

He noted that his children and grandchildren are enjoying this “change” at home.

Carefully placed spotlights on the sides of the building, or on the floor, emphasize the details of the facade of the house at night compared to the darkened neighboring houses.

All of Madani’s home renovations cost less than a quarter of the cost of buying a new home.

The prices of new houses vary between four million riyals and ten million ($1 million to $2.67 million), depending on their area and location.

“Architectural Opening”

For decades, the majority of Saudi families have chosen to live in private homes, which afford them the greatest amount of privacy.

Many of these houses are just cement buildings with closed facades, with only small windows, often surrounded by iron bars and high fences, making them poorly ventilated and lit even during the day.

Some attribute the small windows to the high temperature in the Kingdom most months of the year.

The task of designing these houses was the responsibility of contractors, not architects, who experts say have lost any aesthetic touch.

Engineer: In the recent period, people have renovated more than the first because land prices have risen and new houses are expensive.

“Over the past four years, there have been signs of architectural openness,” says Abdullah Al-Jasser, owner of the company that restored Al-Madini’s house. People are more open to change and implement patterns of decoration and design” on different models.

The engineer continued, near the house’s swimming pool, whose restoration took eight months: “In the recent period, people have renovated more than the first because land prices have risen and new houses are expensive.”

In 2018, Saudi Arabia introduced mandatory laws for modern construction, noting in particular the need for larger windows in accordance with health standards.

Architect Ali Al-Luhaidan said that the old designs with “very small windows reflect a culture that offers greater privacy for the family,” adding that this building style “had a great social impact … it contributed to the creating a culture of isolation.”

The internal division of the houses also continued this culture, with an entrance and a majlis for men and another for women, thus wasting the space of the house. This changed with the wave of architectural openness.

Al-Luhaidan said: “Currently, the council is finished. There is a reception room and a dining room attached to the living room. The ground floor is now open, and people are receptive to the idea.”

He continued, “The living area, which is used daily, has a view of the outside glass. It’s all open… It’s a new culture in Saudi Arabia.”

Despite the winds of development, the architects are keen to preserve the privacy of the conservative culture, the resident managers’ rooms attached to the houses still look only outside the house and never open to the courtyard.

Open business communities

Architectural development is not only limited to residential buildings, as the approach to building open commercial complexes has also changed, after being just gatherings of compact shops in the middle of a square without any luxury or entertainment elements.

It has dedicated green spaces and others for walking and water views and fountains.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia introduced mandatory laws for modern construction, noting in particular the need for larger windows in accordance with health standards.

Many of them have open balconies from which men and women can see their pilgrims, whereas former Saudi families used to sit in closed indoor spaces reserved exclusively for “families”. This is a condition that the authorities canceled at the end of 2019.

Mohammed Abdel Moneim, supervisor of commercial designs in a real estate development company in Riyadh, confirmed that the recent change in the design of commercial buildings in Saudi Arabia is radical.

He explained that “the old designs served the idea of ​​a culture of separation and segregation between families and singles. Currently, the place is not required to provide exclusive privacy for families.”

Al-Luhaidan company is working on the design of modern multi-storey residential towers in the north of Riyadh, which have been popular among Saudis who do not traditionally prefer this style.

Al-Luhaidan said that “modern designs in the residential and commercial sector will change the culture of architecture in Saudi Arabia within a few years.”


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