Jeddah celebrates 2nd Italian Design Day

Princess Duaa bint Mohammad, center, at the Italian design event. The annual celebration highlights the excellence and distinctiveness of Italian design around the world.

JEDDAH: The Consulate General of Italy in Jeddah celebrated the second Italian Design Day by hosting a conference on urban design. 

The event, at the Italian Cultural Center, was promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. 

The annual celebration highlights the excellence and distinctiveness of Italian design around the world and is observed on March 1 every year. 

This year’s theme focused on the connection between design and sustainability. 

“This initiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was taken to give a taste of what the Italian lifestyle is to the world,” Consul General Stefano Stucci said in his opening speech on Wednesday.

This year’s design day includes 100 events in 100 cities around the world, presented by 100 ‘ambassadors’ of Italian culture. Jeddah was among the cities chosen for 2019.

The ambassadors are professionals such as architects, designers, entrepreneurs, journalists, critics, educators. 

Jeddah’s event had two main speakers from Milan, which the consul general described as “the cultural capital of Italy.” 

They were Andrea Boschetti, architect and founder of Metrogramma, and Flora Ribera, general manager of Mediamond. 

Boschetti said it was essential to put people at the heart of design “otherwise modernity will fail. People come first.” 

He said that people sometimes suggested that everything should be destroyed and rebuilt when they wanted to modernize or redevelop part of a city. The reason for that view was because the past ceased to exist, he added.

The answer lay in studying the area from all perspectives “to dig inside reality, to explore the future,” he told Arab News.

“Al-Balad in Jeddah is one example of what I mean. How the buildings … and the emptiness are distributed in the area is perfectly designed for human life. I was astonished and surprised when I first visited it,” he said, referring to Jeddah’s ancient port center. 

Although it has been a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site since 2014, many of Al-Balad’s historical buildings have perished due to fire and disrepair. UNESCO has, in the past 50 years, offered an incentive to preserve historical sites such as Al-Balad, which is considered a staple of Hijazi architecture.

A perfectly designed city is when “everything has to go in harmony and balance, the past and future, the volume and emptiness,” Boschetti said.

Lucio Frigo gave a presentation about Jeddah’s historical area, its unique urban and social structure and design, as well as how to regenerate and re-elevate it to become the heart of the city again.

Turki and Abdulrahman Gazzaz, architects and founders of Jeddah-based Bricklab, spoke about their projects and their participation in last year’s Venice architecture biennale.v

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