The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) has won the 2024 iF Design Award for its exhibition Net Zero, with design partner ACCIONA Cultura. Net Zero was curated by Candida Pestana with assistant curator Lama Alissa. The exhibition features work by 19 international and Saudi contemporary artists that focus on environmental challenges and sustainable solutions.

Established in Hanover, Germany, over 70 years ago, the prestigious iF Design Award is focused on outstanding design and social engagement following the parameters of impact, differentiation, function, idea and form. The Ithra-curated Net Zero was a winner in the Interior Architecture/Cultural Exhibition categories.

As a backdrop to Net Zero’s exploration of environmental issues and sustainability, the unique exhibition space features undulating 3D-printed concrete walls that flow around the gallery with an elegant liquidity.

The “Net Zero” concept is not merely an abstract idea explored by the art and the installation: ACCIONA Cultura’s design adheres to a zero-waste approach in which all exhibition elements will have a second life after the run of the show. Moreover, the CO2 emissions generated by the exhibition will be offset through direct support of the Oaxaca project, a vast wind power project with the operational capacity to power 700,000 Mexican homes. The effect is the voiding of 670,000 metric tons of CO2, matching the CO2 cleaning power of over 30 million trees. A certificate of voluntary cancellation was issued for the exhibition project by the United Nations Climate Change Office.

Net Zero includes nine works that were specifically commissioned for the exhibition among the works by 19 contemporary artists. The exhibit, Pestana explains, “aims to offer a creative way to build awareness and engagement around the world’s attempts to achieve net zero, especially in the arts industry.” She continues: “It is crucial for us to address these topics and develop sustainable solutions for the museum and exhibitions sector, enabling active participation in the continuing global conversation. Our goal is to share the genuine perspectives, thoughts and insights of these artists with the audience.”

The exhibit’s new commissions include works by Saudi artist Zahrah Al Ghamdi, the famed Danish art collective Superflex and a site-specific multimedia installation by Jordanian Dina Haddadin. These are joined by works by leading international contemporary artists in Ithra’s permanent collection, including British photographer Nick Brandt, Emil Lukas of the US and French multimedia artist Philippe Parreno. Locally-produced works include three video pieces by Mohammad Al-Faraj, a farmer from nearby al-Hasa, whose Ghost of a Farmer, for example, features footage of fellow farmers harvesting the famous hassawi red rice.

Not only the content of the included work, but the exhibition design itself directly relates to the theme of sustainability. “All of the material that we are using is sustainable,” notes Farah Abushullaih, Ithra's Head of Museums. “Even the walls created with our design partner ACCIONA Cultura are 3D-printed concrete walls. We are planning an afterlife for everything in this exhibition and the walls will be the center of a future project.”

Noura Alzamil, Head of Programs at Ithra, notes: “Ithra has been committed to sustainability since it was first conceived. It was designed to surpass the requirements for Gold LEED certification. Environmental responsibility has been a leading theme in several of our exhibitions, and it is in the very design of our building and now the design of Net Zero.” Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the globally recognized US Green Building Council sustainability certification that rates every phase of a building – design, construction, operation and maintenance. Ithra achieved Gold LEED certification in 2018 for its design and new construction and a second Gold LEED certification in 2023 for operations and maintenance, making it the first building in Saudi Arabia to achieve multiple LEED certifications.

According to ACCIONA Cultura, the iF Design Award-winning Net Zero marks the first time 3D-printing has been used on such a large scale as a part of an exhibition.

Net Zero will be on view at Ithra in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, through June 30, 2024.

For more information, visit Net Zero Exhibition | Ithra or iF Design - Net Zero.


By Daniel Kany

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