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Open Call for Pavilion Proposals Saudi Design Week

Open Call for Pavilion Proposals Saudi Design Week  © Dreamstime

© Dreamstime

18 June 2019
by Elena Tamosiunaite

Applications are now open to UK based architects and designers to design a temporary pavilion as part of Saudi Design Week which will explore the theme of 'Designing Happiness'.

Responding to the 2019 Saudi Design Week theme Designing Happiness, British Council and Saudi Design Week are inviting architects and designers to design a temporary pavilion representative of a contemporary reinterpretation of the House of Hairs, a traditional Bedouin tent. The pavilion will be installed in the outdoor courtyard in the Saudi Design Week Exhibition space in Riyadh and on view during Saudi Design Week from 5 to 9 November 2019, with the potential to travel to other regional and international design weeks.

Submissions must be received by midnight GMT on Monday, 15 July 2019


House of Hairs

The House of Hairs, or, the Arabian tent, is synonymous with ancient Bedouin life, but with a significance that still resonates today. Firmly established as a quintessential element of Arabian culture, the House of Hairs also went by the name of “the house of poetry” and was the home of the Bedouins who resided there. Carried with them on their travels, there were traditionally two forms of Arabian tent; the summer tent, made of wool or wool bags and the winter tent, made of goatskin.

Additional information regarding the tent’s traditional design, construction, and materials used can be found here.

While the tents still serve the purpose of a home for friends and family, the House of Hairs has not escaped the technological grip of modern life, and in many cases, are now fitted with electricity, air conditioning, WiFi and satellite TV.

The project’s primary aim is to dive deep into the House of Hairs to better understand the role design can play in placemaking. It seeks to investigate spaces in which we can feel and foster a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves, facilitating stronger relations and a sense of community.

Designing Happiness and Belonging

New technologies and digital media have had a major impact on our contemporary understanding of domesticity and contributed to more mobile, nomadic lifestyles globally. Even though advances in technology have enabled people to become more connected virtually, social isolation and chronic loneliness are on the rise as a global epidemic. We would like to receive proposals that examine what we can learn from the ancient House of Hairs, a nomadic habitat and how this could potentially exist in our contemporary cities?

We encourage proposals to consider multifaceted design; from social and material design to architecture, light design and so much more. We wish applicants to examine commonalities and contradictions between the concepts of what makes a home in the UK and in Saudi, acknowledging mutual challenges and the value of cultural exchange in addressing them.

A study by the Mental Health Association in Great Britain found that 48 percent of the population is getting lonelier in general resulting in the UK appointing a Minister for Loneliness. Careers and educations are uprooting individuals from their families and the communities where they grew up, leading to a rise in ‘anomie’, a sense of not belonging to a community. Studies in psychology and sociology show that the need to belong is both inherent and fundamental to humans. Without close relationships, 82 percent of the population is uncomfortable and suffers from both mental and physical ailments as a result. Science-backed theories of sociology and environmental psychology help us understand and mitigate these problems through design.

In line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom has initiated a QoL (Quality of Life) 2020 program. It aims to improve individual lifestyles and enhance the quality of life among its residents; in alignment with global indices. Part of its guiding objectives and planned programs focus on:

  • Increasing social engagement
  • Enhancing the livability of cities through urban design and architecture
  • Developing entertainment, lifestyle, and cultural experiences that fuses local identity with a sense of global belonging and citizenship

Click here for more information regarding the Quality of Life Program and Vision 2030.

Pavilion Location

The pavilion will be installed in the outdoor courtyard in the Saudi Design Week Exhibition space in Riyadh. Information regarding the final venue will be confirmed at a later stage of the project.

Design Specifications and Requirements:

  • The space and project should take on and reexamine the purpose of traditional tents and focus on its adaptability and ease of relocation (i.e. its ease of transport and build up, its efficiency to be assembled and taken down)
  • Use of indigenously sourced materials - should focus on local materials and expand or developing those
  • The size should be between 50-100 sqm
  • The interior space should be able to accommodate between 30-45 people and incorporate informal seating within for a minimum of 20 visitors
  • Ensure that the tent is not heavily closed off, and has an open air access point
  • The pavilion should be fully accessible for persons with disabilities (i.e. wheelchair users)

Public Programme

In addition to the pavilion design the applicants have to propose a public programme of minimum three events to happen in the pavilion. This can also take the form of an interactive experience for the pavilion visitors. The appointed team will be responsible to deliver the events themselves or include costs for any additional members of the team to the given design fee. The team will also participate in a panel discussion presenting the pavilion during the Saudi Design Week.

In addition to the House of Hairs pavilion the British Council is inviting creative organisations, curators and creative practitioners to submit proposals for the public events programme in response to the Saudi Design Week theme Designing Happiness. The pavilion designers will be required to work closely with the appointed event programme curator and at least one of the proposed events will take place in the House of Hairs pavilion.

Collaboration with Saudi Architects

We wish the pavilion design and installation process to be collaboration between the appointed UK team and a Saudi based architecture team (which will be selected by Saudi Design Week). Saudi based architects will play an important role in advising and helping to source the most appropriate local materials to be used in the pavilion. Collaboration will allow shared learning and exchange, making the pavilion design locally relevant in both contexts, identifying similar challenges and opportunities.


  • Proposals submitted via open call by midnight Monday, 15 July 2019
  • If further deliberation is necessary shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview via video conference in the week starting 22 July 2019
  • Successful applicants will be notified by 1 August 2019
  • Appointed team scoping trip to KSA week starting 26th of August or week starting 2 September 2019
  • Installation  from 3 until 4 November 2019
  • Appointed team participation in Saudi Design Week from 5 until 9 November 2019
  • Submission of a final project evaluation report by appointed team week starting 18th November 2019


Criteria for eligibility to apply:

  • Applicants should be UK-based architects or designers with professional experience in creating and delivering design projects focused on public spatial installations and interventions
  • Two members of the applying team must be able to travel to KSA for a period of 1 week for the scoping visit during the week starting 26th of August or week starting 2 September 2019 as well as from 2 of November until 9 November 2019 to participate in the pavilion installation and Saudi Design Week
  • Please note: Applicants will be able to travel to KSA subject to successful visa application. Visa application process can take up to 6 weeks.


The lead applicant from the appointed team will sign a contract with the British Council and be paid a fee of a maximum  £9,000 plus VAT if required. This is to cover fees for all members of selected team, and the lead applicant will be responsible for distributing the fee among the team.

A production cost of £5,000  will be covered by Saudi Design Week and materials will be sourced within Saudi Arabia. Sourcing shipping and building of the pavilion will be covered by a separate budget.

British Council will cover travel costs to Riyadh, KSA (flights, hotel, subsistence, and visa) for two members of the appointed team for a scoping visit in September.  

Saudi Design Week will cover travel costs for participation in Saudi Design Week for 2 representatives from the winning team.

The travelling team members will be responsible for getting their own travel insurance.

How to apply

The following materials should be included in your application:

  • Practice/team name and list of all team members indicating a project leader
  • Team description and CV’s of all team members
  • Statement defining how this project would fit in relation to your current practice and the broader context of your work, research, and interests (less than 400 words)
  • Proposal Statement (less than 400 words)
  • Public Programme proposal (less than 400 words)
  • Installation proposal (up to 3 pages, including up to 5 images of relevant past work)
  • An approximate budget breakdown (identifying how £9000 will be used within the team specifying daily rate of individual team members or practice. Also identifying approximate budget breakdown of £5000 covering material costs)
  • Please read the Request for Proposal Template for furher information here
  • Appointed team project leader will sign the contract with the British Council please see the contract template here


The selection panel will be formed by:

Basma Bouzo, Director, Saudi Design Week

Elena Tamosiunaite, Architecture Programme Manager, British Council

Eszter Steierhoffer, Senior Curator, Design Museum

Marie Bak Mortensen, Head of Exhibitions and Interpretation, RIBA

Jawaher Al Sudairy, Architecture scholar and and curator

We will be able to provide feedback only for the applicants selected for an interview stage.

Submissions should not exceed 5MB in size and should be emailed to by midnight GMT on Monday, 15 July 2019. Please format all written material as a single PDF document.