Al Mureijah Square

Sharjah Art Foundations’ contemporary galleries are located in this square alongside a series of restored courtyard houses and coral stone enclosures. Inaugurated with Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013), the new buildings provide flexible, climate-controlled space for the presentation of works in various media, as well as those of large-scale and technical ambition.

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Glass facades, windows and skylights offer natural light and visual sightlines to central courtyards and a network of walkways that incorporate adaptations of traditional architectural features.

Solo presentation of work by Simone Fattal, 2016
Installation view.

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Solo presentation of recent works by Wael Shawky, Horsemen Adore Perfumes and other stories, 2014. Installation view.

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Rayyane Tabet, Cyprus, 2015. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 12.

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An interconnected roof-scape provides adaptable space for projects, performances and gatherings.

Gabriel Lester, Vayu-Vata, 2013. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 11.

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Complimenting these new spaces are a number of restored traditional houses, coral stone enclosures and courtyards used for exhibitions and public programmes, including the SAF Urban Garden and the Mirage City Cinema.

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Visuals

Calligraphy Square

The heritage buildings of Calligraphy Square serve as temporary exhibition space for the Sharjah Biennial and other SAF projects. This area is home to a number of Sharjah’s art and cultural institutions and initiatives including the Calligraphy Museum, the Calligraphy Biennial, Calligraphy Studios and the Sharjah Heritage Museum.

SANAA, Bubble, 2013. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 11.

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Calligraphy Square bridges the space between Arts Square and Al Mureijah Square. The large courtyard for which the area is named is often used as a site for Sharjah Biennial projects.

Carlos Amorales, We’ll See How All Reverberates, 2012. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 11.

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Visuals

Art Square

Central to Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) programming, Arts Square is demarcated by Souq Saqr that runs parallel to Sharjah Creek, the Sharjah Art Museum and the restored courtyard houses of Bait Obaid Al Shamsi and Bait Al Serkal.

Maider López, Football Field, 2007—2009. Installation View, Sharjah Biennial 9.

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The two houses, which once belonged to the prominent families for which they are named, provide dedicated space for SAF programming. The museum, programmed by the Sharjah Museum’s Department, is also used for the Sharjah Biennial. The three buildings offer a mixture of modestly scaled gallery spaces, restored plaster and chandal wood beam rooms, various size courtyards and roof terraces overlooking Sharjah Creek.

Solo presentation of work by Farideh Lashai, 2016.

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do it بالعربي exhibition,2016.

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Off-Site Venues

SAF also works in range of offsite venues and centres located in other neighbourhoods of Sharjah city and in urban areas and communities throughout the emirate. Many of the offsite venues were built in the 1970s at a time coinciding with the founding of the United Arab Emirates.

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The Kalba Art Factory is located in the city of Kalba on Sharjah’s East coast. The large, soaring structure, which once operated as an ice factory, now serves as SAF’s east coast outpost and neighbours the Kalba Campus of the University of Sharjah.

Adrián Villar Rojas, Planetarium, 2015. Installation view, Sharjah Biennial 12.

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Close to the center of the city of Sharjah, the Flying Saucer is easily accessible from a number of residential neighbourhoods. Originally home to a grocery store and fast food restaurant, the building is an architectural landmark that conjures many memories for generations who grew up in Sharjah.

1980-Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates, 2016

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Six art centres across the Central and Eastern region of the Emirate - Al Madam Art Centre, Al Dhaid Art Centre, Al Hamriya Art Centre, Kalba Art Centre, Khorfakkan Art Centre and Dibba Al Hisn Art Centre have become part of Sharjah Art Foundation in 2016. These centres focus on education and community outreach, offering painting, sculpture, calligraphy, ceramics and photography classes throughout the year, as well as a broad range of programmes and activities.

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  • Facts

    Al Mureijah Square
    Urban Fragment: 20,000 sq m

    6 Contemporary buildings
    6 Historical buildings
    2 Open Spaces
    Information Center
    Urban Garden

    Calligraphy Square
    Urban Fragment: 10,000 sq m

    5 Historical buildings
    1 Open Space

    Art Square Square
    Urban Fragment: 20,000 sq m

    2 Contemporary buildings
    1 Modern building
    2 Historical buildings
    1 Open space

    Off-Site Venues
    The Flying Saucer. AlDasman, Sharjah.
    Kalba Ice Factory. East Coast, Sharjah.

  • Concept

    Sharjah Art Foundation’s new spaces are located in the Heart of Sharjah, a central area that is regarded as a distinct urban representation of
    Sharjah’s built environment cultural identity. SAF Art Spaces is an urban development project with an adaptive re-use approach. The buildings
    dialogue with both the existing physicality of the urban fragment as well as its history and past use in order to reactivate the area and invigorate the reception of contemporary art, which is befitting within the culturally rich, multi-layered urban context.

    The project offers five exhibition buildings, which provide a range of interiors to experience art along with a variety of exterior spaces including courtyards, alleyways, open squares and an inter-connected roofscape. Without being spatially or programmatically overly determined, each exhibition building has a pronounced spatial quality, scale, and lighting characteristic, producing a spectrum of more contextualized or more abstracted frameworks for exhibiting and perceiving art.

    In response to the urban context and courtyard typology, the design subtly transforms introverted spaces that in the past supported private residential life around the courtyard into more fluid spaces that make provision for a communal social and spatial experience around contemporary art.

    On a conceptual level and in an attempt to retain the place’s historic footprint, the project reinterprets pre-existing or documented architectural traces within the plot and readapts historic architectural elements and materiality to new uses and conditions. The intention is to balance the creation of open, and fluid contemporary spaces with a celebration of unique traditional urban characteristics. The revived traditional aspects of the architecture include thick peripheral walls, meandering alleys and reintegrated rooftops, which were once inhabited outdoor residential spaces. The roof becomes an extension of the urban space providing not only plunging views into alleys, courtyards, and exhibition spaces to intensify the perception of artwork but also provides views across urban layers, with limited vistas of the Creek and Gulf//beyond.

    Artwork is to be encountered in exterior spaces against a reading of the immediate site, the surrounding landmarks and furthermore the extended
    site with its historical layers. The result is an integrated experience that transforms and contextualizes readings of both artwork and site.


    •Text exerted from concept statement written by Mona El-Mousfy, Senior architect, SAF architectural consultant and client representative, Sharmeen Syed, Architect and researcher and Godwin Austen Johnson, Architecture and Engineering Consultant.