The firm OMA designed the scenography for the first edition of the Jeddah Biennale, which is being held within the Western Hajj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport, a work of Skidmore, Owings & Meriill (SOM) and winner of the 1983 Aga Khan Award.

Titled Awwal Bait, which translates as ‘First House,’ the biennial will up to 23 April use over 120,000 square meters of space to showcase ancient objects and contemporary artworks connected to Islamic culture.

There are two distinct areas: first, under the terminal’s tent-like canopy, a desert landscape alluding to the Hirjah, Prophet Mohamed’s journey from Makkah to Madinah, where surfaces of sandy tones have been built to display the items; second, drawing inspiration from the concept of the Qiblah, the wall in a mosque that marks the direction Muslims face when they pray, where a sequence of new-build exhibition galleries described as ‘a journey from darkness to light’ leads visitors from dimly lit rooms to bright spaces.

The project was led by OMA partner Iyad Alaska, with Kaveh Dabiri and Saskia Simon. On the biennial’s curatorial team are the architects Sumayya Vally and Omniya Abdel Barr.