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Arab Contemporary

Architecture, Culture and Identity

31.1.2014 - 4.5.2014

ARAB CONTEMPORARY was the second chapter in the series “Architecture, Culture and Identity” – and is a successor to the exhibition NEW NORDIC, which Louisiana showed in 2012. The series is about how architecture is both a bearer of identity and promotes the shaping of the cultural distinctiveness of a country or a region. 

Just as there are ongo­ing discussions of whether anything specifically Nordic exists, the exhibition ARAB CONTEMPORARY attempted to home in on features shared by the Arab countries – from the Arabian Peninsula through Lebanon to Morocco. The Arab world is first and foremost connected by language, but there are other common features that point both to a shared understanding of space and a visual culture where one can draw lines from calligraphy over certain construction elements to architecture on the very grand scale.

The exhibition traced some of these common lines for consideration, and a picture of the notion of ‘the Arabian’ will arise through various stories from places where significant developments are happening right now.

The exhibition took us to new cities like Dubai, old Yemenite civilizations and new architectural projects that relate to the desert as place. And it showed how architectural offices such as Atelier Jean Nouvel, Paris, X-Architects, Dubai, and Henning Larsen Architects, Copenhagen, intervene in the region with new interpretations. A current focus is the relationship between private and public space, which is presently changing socially, politically and architecturally.

ARAB CONTEMPORARY was a cross-over exhibition mixing architecture, art, photography, documentary and film.


The exhibition has been realized with support from Realdania, sponsor of Louisiana’s architecture exhibitions.


"Graffiti is like flowers. They are beautiful, but they don't live long." An interview with Lebanese-Egyptian Bahia Shehab (b.1977), street-artist, designer and Islamic art historian studying ancient Arabic script and visual heritage. Bahia Shehab talks to Louisiana Channel about the role of art during the Arab spring and art as a tool for change: "You cannot resist ideas. They can travel into any mind."