Fundamentalists and Other Arab Modernisms

Kingdom of Bahrain’s National Participation at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition
La Biennale de Venezia – Arsenale

7th June – 23th November 2014

Fundamentalists and Other Arab Modernisms is the Kingdom of Bahrain’s National Participation at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition- La Biennale de Venezia. The pavilion, located at the Arsenale Artiglierie in Venice, was commissioned by Her Excellency Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The Exhibition

At a moment when the Arab world is in turmoil, it seems relevant, from Bahrain to assess what remains of the pan-Arab project; a transnational political and cultural project, born in the early 20th century, coinciding with the birth of modernism in the region. Under the Ottoman rule, European colonial forces inscribed the beginning of a modernist project, first through an infrastructure of rail lines and then with more pronounced colonial ambitions that were translated through a territorial project of modernization at both the urban and architectural scale. As the political situation continued to evolve, the colonial map was slowly replaced by the real estate developer’s model as neo-liberal ideals were loosely adopted and generally accepted as the new modus operandi. The exhibition is conceived as a subjective, non-exhaustive and sometimes fictional reading of the architectural legacy of the last 100 years across the Arab World, initiated as a first attempt to safeguard the archival architectural heritage of this region. It includes a selection of a hundred buildings, laid out flat without any pretention of qualitative architectural judgment that will join the archives of the Arab Center for Architecture.


George Arbid

George Arbid is an architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Beirut. He received his Doctor of Design degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and his Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures en Architecture from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts. Prior to his stay at Harvard, he was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the History, Theory and Criticism Program at MIT.

His area of interest covers mostly modern architecture in Lebanon and the region. Among his writings is “Beirut: the Phoenix and the Reconstruction Predicament”, an essay that he wrote for Urbanization and the Changing Character of the Arab City published by ESCWA in 2005. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Karol Schayer architect, a Pole in Beirut. Arbid is the co-founder and current director of the Arab Center for Architecture located in Beirut, and the founding member of Docomomo Lebanon.

His published architecture practice includes the Shabb and Salem residences, the latter having been nominated for the Aga Khan Award in 1998.


Bernard Khoury

Bernard Khoury studied architecture at the Rhode Island school of Design (B.F.A 1990 / B.Arch 1991). He received a Masters in Architectural studies from Harvard University (M.Arch 1993). In 2001, he was awarded by the municipality of Rome the honorable mention of the Borromini prize given to architects under 40 years of age. In 2004, he was awarded the Architecture + Award. He was a visiting professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, L’Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris and the American University of Beirut. He has lectured and exhibited his work in prestigious academic institutions in Europe and the U.S including a solo show of his work given by the International Forum for Contemporary Architecture at the Aedes gallery in Berlin (2003) and numerous group shows including YOUprison at the Fondazione Sandretto in Torino (2008) and SPACE at the opening show of the MAXXI museum in Rome (2010). His work has been extensively published by the professional press. Khoury started an independent practice in 1993. Over the past 15 years, his office has developed an international reputation and a significant diverse portfolio of projects both locally and abroad.



Ministry of Culture

Bernard Khoury and George Arbid, Arab Center for Architecture

Exhibition Design
Bernard Khoury/ DW5

Screenplay and Installation graphics
Studio Safar

Local Architect
Francesco Librizzi Studio

Executive Direction Assistance
Chanel Seguin and Eric Dunanteau

Catalogue Graphic Design
Jonathan Hares

Catalogue Editor
George Arbid