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Culture Ministry plans to export architectural ideas designed in Saudi Arabia, says commission director-general

RIYADH: The Culture Ministry is taking the lead in turning Saudi Arabia into an exporter of architecture and design services as part of the Kingdom’s diversification strategy to grow creative industries, a senior ministry official has said.

According to Sumayah Al-Solaiman, executive director of the Architecture and Design Commission of the Ministry of Culture, the commission is working to improve the architecture and design services sector throughout the value chain.

“Instead of importing architecture and design services, we may come to a point where we export some of the services based on our strong track record,” Al-Solaiman told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

As part of its national strategy to preserve and maintain the rich Saudi architectural heritage, the commission is training new and acclaimed architects and designers through educational opportunities and learning channels.

“In recent years, Saudi architecture graduates have left the industry and moved into neighboring fields. We want to bring them back and use their talent and training,” Al-Solaiman said.

In an attempt to promote the distinctive Saudi architectural flavor, the commission launched the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism.

Founded in December 2021, the charter is inspired by ambitious creative expertise and seeks to capture the essence of Salmani Architecture, an architectural style that is modern and futuristic, yet embodies authentic local architectural heritage.

The charter focuses on capturing the lessons learned from King Salman’s reign as Governor of Riyadh and ensuring that these are reflected in the identity of the capital city.

Its goal is to create memorable buildings and spaces, bringing them to life through a set of guidelines that encourage the integration of cultural and national identity into contemporary designs while meeting the needs of local communities.

“It’s very human-centric and community-driven. It is very forward-thinking in innovation and quite sustainable because it ensures that we not only use fewer resources, but improve existing ones,” Al-Solaiman explained.

Al-Solaiman said that 22 of the 33 initiatives set by the commission will be completed by early 2023.

The Architecture and Design Commission was established in February 2020 as one of the 11 commissions of the Ministry of Culture to regulate the sector, including encouraging professionals, organizing seminars and stimulating creative thinking in the sector.

“This relates to talent development. It relates to regulations and making sure we have the best regulatory environment for architecture and design to thrive,” she said.

Al-Solaiman is also interested in locating many jobs in the architecture and design sector. She wants to make the sector more attractive to Saudis so their involvement can improve employability and keep the wheels of the economy turning.

“This means investigating minimum wages and many things related to labor policies,” Al-Solaiman said.

Indeed, the commission’s initiatives have begun to bear fruit. The companies that work with the Saudi megaprojects look for local talent that possesses the necessary cultural and local knowledge to make these projects successful.

There is also an avid interest in sustainable development, which is also one of the commission’s strategic goals. It is currently in the process of launching the Architecture and Design Sustainability Summit and Working Group, which will bring people together to discuss and implement some of the initiatives.

“When we talk about sustainability, it does not become a complement or something nice to have, but rather something that we understand as essential and that drives many decisions in the sector itself,” he concluded.

As part of its efforts, the commission ensures that only architects and designers are qualified to practice.

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