Saudi Arabia is having a moment. In recent years, the Kingdom has taken a leading role in the fields of sports, hosting high-profile events such as the Saudi Cup horse race and attracting the top international talents in soccer, pushing the boundaries of architecture with mega developments such as the ongoing Neom and Red Sea projects, and opening its borders to international visitors.
The country’s expansive transformation is at the core of Saudi Vision 2030, a government program that HRH the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched to grow and diversify its economy and strengthen its national identity. Preserving Saudi’s heritage and Arab values is a key component of the ambitious plan, inspiring multiple cultural projects, from revitalizing historical sites to creating state-of-the-art museums.
The nation’s cultural calendar is particularly rich in temporary events showcasing local talent and international artists while creating opportunities for community building. One successful example was Layali Diriyah, an open-air entertainment space built on a palm grove near Riyadh and open to the public for 54 consecutive nights. Drawing over 120,000 visitors earlier this year, the event, sponsored by the Ministry of Sports, is set for a new edition during next year’s Diriyah Season.
A project by Designlab Experience, an architectural firm and creative studio specializing in temporary architecture, Layali Diriyah showcased international art installations, local art and entertainment, and fine dining on a 25,000 sqm space overlooking the Kingdom’s birthplace. The impressive setting created an exceptional journey for visitors, featuring elevated walkways, pop-up restaurants, shisha cafés, retail kiosks, and sleek treehouses accessible for family play.
Among the highlights was a series of moving light installations designed by international artists. A total of 20,000 lights added a touch of magic to the immersive atmosphere.
The vast installation was seamlessly integrated into the landscape using a mapping system to preserve the trees, platforms to protect the irrigation system, and sustainable materials such as wood, steel, rope, and a natural color palette. “We created a modular system of small elements that we could build with the supervision of a topographer and an engineer on site,” explains Marwan Maalouf, Designlab Experience Lead Architect. “This meticulous process allowed us to maximize the use of the space while having minimal impact on the farm.”
Most importantly, it offered attraction and entertainment to a wide-ranging public, creating opportunities for communal gatherings in an extraordinary yet familiar environment where local flavors, music, and craftsmanship were celebrated.
Temporary architecture continues to be an instrumental government tool for revitalizing the country and supporting local communities, appointing Designlab Experience to build transient infrastructures for various events. The firm was the mastermind behind sporting competitions like the Saudi Cup and AlUla’s Camel Race, the thousand-people dinner for the recently instated Founding Day hosted by HRH the Crown Prince, and activations within upcoming neighborhoods, notably the luxurious Al Bujairi Terraces in Diriyah.
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