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Sharjah Art Foundation's Al Mureijah Art Spaces are located in a historical neighborhood that is regarded as a distinct urban representation of Sharjah’s built environment and cultural identity. The area extends from the Sharjah Creek where Al Zahra Mosque is situated, to the reconstructed city walls.
Designed by architects Mona El Mousfy, and Sharmeen Azam Inayat, the five new buildings with approximately 2,000 m² of exhibition area, were inaugurated with the 11th edition of the Sharjah Biennial in 2013. The Art Spaces dialogue with both the existing physicality of the urban fragment as well as its history, in order to reactivate the area and invigorate the reception of contemporary art.
The new buildings provide flexible, climate-controlled space for the presentation of works in various media, including large-scale and technically ambitious projects. Glass facades, windows and skylights offer natural light and visual sightlines to central courtyards, and to a network of walkways that incorporate adaptations of traditional architectural features.
Al Mureijah Art Spaces serve as a venue for Sharjah Biennials and Sharjah Art Foundation exhibitions, and as a community space for residents in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Complementing these new spaces are a number of restored traditional houses, coral stone enclosures and courtyards.
Five exhibition buildings 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 nor programmatically overly determined, each exhibition building has a pronounced spatial quality, scale, and lighting characteristic, producing a spectrum of more contextualised 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 contextualises readings of both artwork and site.
© Text based on information from Sharjah Art Foundation.
© Photos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated
Main institution for contemporary arts, organizer of the Biennial and other world class events.
March - June 2022. Curators: Okwui Enwezor, Hoor Al Qasimi. Theme: Thinking Historically in the Present, conceived by late Enwezor.