The Riwaq for Brighton Festival

Brighton Festival is England’s largest annual curated multi-arts festival. The 2022 festival was curated by two guest directors; the inspirational Syrian architect and author Marwa Al-Sabouni and Brighton based artist Tristan Sharps. With a shared a passion for architecture and its impact on lives, they chose the festival theme ‘rebuild’.

Central to the festival was a specially commissioned structure designed by Marwa Al-Sabouni and Ghassan Jansiz; the Riwaq. Riwaq is the Arabic word for colonnade, a semi-open space, acting as a threshold for exchange. Traditionally in Arabic it is often figuratively used as a referential space for culture and knowledge: the Riwaq of Poetry and the Riwaq of culture.

Photography by Jim Stephenson

Invited by Marwa to collaborate, I was honoured to guide the festival through the process of bringing the Riwaq to life; from advising on materials choice to pulling together an exceptional team of engineers and fabricators. From a very beautiful sketch drawn by Marwa in Homs in Syria to the completed large scale wooden structure, the Riwaq became a truly celebratory gathering place – a place of exchange - on Hove seafront, an icon of the festival and an embodiment of Marwa’s belief in the positive power of architecture.

Steve Webb of world class engineering practice Webb Yates participated with design collaboration, sharing their structural engineering expertise, the results of which were visible in the beautiful detailing of the structure. The Riwaq was built from timber, proving that wood is both sustainable, and stunning. The arch of the Riwaq caught the May sunshine, its horseshoe shape forming a warm embrace to the crowds who came, stayed and celebrated a vibrant and life-affirming programme of events.

The Riwaq, May 2022:

Designed by Marwa Al-Sabouni and Ghassan Jansiz

Design collaboration and structural engineering Webb Yates

Design collaboration and fabrication by SetWorks

The Riwaq was genoursly sponsored by Moda Life

With support from Timber Development UK