Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) has completed the planned transformation of Kalba Ice Factory, an abandoned 20,000 square meter industrial site on the Emirate’s east coast, into art spaces with social amenities, designed by 51-1 Arquitectos of Lima, Peru. Located in the town of Kalba on the Gulf of Oman, the former fish feed mill and ice storage facility with a distinctive saw-tooth shaped roof was acquired by SAF in 2015 and has since served as the site for SAF interventions including Mohau Modisakeng’s Sharjah Biennial 14 performance Land of Zanj (2019) and Adrián Villar Rojas's Planetarium for Sharjah Biennial 12 (2015). The renovation entailed a minimal level of intervention to the factory space to maintain its powerful spatial qualities as an industrial ruin, while expanding on the existing structure to create studios and living spaces for visiting artists and guests. The renovation also added an expansive artist workshop, a shaded walkway along the shoreline, an edible garden and a restaurant on an elevated deck with views of the surrounding mangrove forest. The building will open to the public on 8 February 2023 as a venue for the 15th edition of the Sharjah Biennial, featuring work by Rebecca Belmore, Ibrahim Mahama, Pak Khawateen Painting Club, Doris Salcedo, Abdulrahim Salem, Kahurangiariki Smith, Inuuteq Storch and Nari Ward.
The stark industrial space created by the factory building’s high windows and light-filled expanses is suitable for large-scale installations and performances, further complimented by the natural beauty of its surroundings. Adjacent to Kalba creek and the Al Qurm mangrove swamp reserve, Kalba Ice Factory is located in an extremely biodiverse area of the Emirate that is home to species including the endangered Arabian-Collard Kingfisher, the Blandford’s lizard and endangered hawksbill and green turtles which nest on the nearby beach. With views of the Sea of Oman to the East, the Kalba mangroves to the South and the Hajar mountains in the West, this new cultural venue on Sharjah’s East Coast—approximately 120 kilometers from SAF’s primary venues in downtown Sharjah—expands on the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to preserving culturally significant sites across the Emirate and reaches out to new audiences beyond the city center.
Overlooking the creek with stunning views of the Al Qurm reserve, an adjoining structure modelling the profile of the Ice Factory will house six apartments and public social spaces. In front, an existing structure is being repurposed into a 200 square meter workshop space for artists and directly behind the factory will be a restaurant with views of the shoreline and mangroves. Separating the restaurant from the nearby road is an edible garden that will feature a series of spaces for dining, cooking, playing and prayer. An elevated deck connects the parking spaces to the garden, the restaurant and the factory. Neem trees will line the entire route, connecting the various elements of the renovation.
“Kalba is a critically important part of Sharjah’s cultural and ecological makeup, and we are enlivening this abandoned site by turning it into a multifaceted gathering space for residents of this region as well as visitors from across the Emirate and around the world,” said Hoor Al Qasimi, Director of Sharjah Art Foundation. “By preserving the industrial rawness of the factory space and protecting the unique ecosystem of the surrounding landscape, this project extends the Foundation’s critical work preserving sites of historic, cultural and environmental significance for future generations through adaptive reuse, and engaging communities across the Emirate with contemporary arts programming.”
The transformation of Kalba Ice Factory is among many major conservation projects the Foundation has initiated in recent years to preserve the rich heritage of the Emirate’s built environment and to create spaces that allow for the presentation of contemporary art and meet the needs of the local community. Other major architectural projects recently completed by the Foundation include The Flying Saucer (2020), a Brutalist landmark in the heart of Sharjah restored to its original architectural character as an exhibition space and community venue; Rain Room Sharjah (2018), a site-specific permanent installation by London-based artist collective Random International; Al Hamriyah Studios (2017), artist workspaces and exhibition areas constructed on the site of a former souq; and Al Mureijah Art Spaces (2013), a complex of five new contemporary buildings built alongside six existing historical structures that are home to SAF’s contemporary galleries.
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. The foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions; and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Established in 2009 to expand programmes beyond the Sharjah Biennial, which launched in 1993, the foundation is a critical resource for artists and cultural organisations in the Gulf and a conduit for local, regional and international developments in contemporary art. The foundation’s deep commitment to developing and sustaining the cultural life and heritage of Sharjah is reflected through year-round exhibitions, performances, screenings and educational programmes in the city of Sharjah and across the Emirate, often hosted in historic buildings that have been repurposed as cultural and community centres. A growing collection reflects the foundation’s support of contemporary artists in the realisation of new work and its recognition of the contributions made by pioneering modern artists from the region and around the world.
Sharjah Art Foundation is a legally independent public body established by Emiri Decree and supported by government funding, grants from national and international nonprofits and cultural organisations, corporate sponsors and individual patrons. Hoor Al Qasimi serves as the Foundation’s President and Director. All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public.
About 51-1 Arquitectos
51-1 is an architecture studio from the Supersudaca collective based in Lima, Peru led by architects Cesar Becerra, Fernando Puente Arnao and Manuel de Rivero. Since its founding in 2005, the studio has worked on dozens of projects and received several major awards and recognitions, including nominations to the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (Chicago), the Iakov Chernikhov Prize (Moscow), the first prize in the international competition for the extension of Medellin Museum of Modern Art in Colombia, built in 2015, and selection for the III Latin American Architecture Biennale (Pamplona). Select projects include: the residential building Infinium Golf (Lima); pavilion design for the 2011 Mistura food fair (Peru); PUCP Culinary School (Lima); restaurants IK, Maido, Cosme, Alado and Astrid&Gaston (Lima) as well as Olluco (Moscow). Currently, 51-1 is working on projects in Peru and the UAE (in the refurbishment of Sharjah National Park) and have been chosen as curators of the II Architecture Biennale of Lima in 2023.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. In 1998, it was named UNESCO's 'Arab Capital of Culture' and was designated the UNESCO ‘World Book Capital’ for the year 2019.
Alyazeyah Al Marri