Architects bring Arabic colonnade to Hove seafront as part of Brighton Festival 2022

Architects bring Arabic colonnade to Hove seafront as part of Brighton Festival 2022

Syrian architects Marwa Al-Sabouni and Ghassan Jansiz will bring a unique architectural element to this year’s Brighton Festival by building a temporary community arts venue on Hove seafront in the form of a traditional Arabic arcade.

The Riwaq – the Arabic word for colonnade – will be a semi-open space based at Hove Lawns providing a unique contrast and framing to the coast beyond. The bespoke horseshoe-shaped structure, a staple of Islamic architecture, will span almost 30 metres in diameter and serve as a transitional creative threshold between the surrounding city and the great outdoors. ­

An eclectic programme of free cultural and community events will take place at The Riwaq for the duration of the Festival, running 7 – 29 May. Local organisations and artists staging artistic takeovers include Best Foot Music & In-House Records, whose work celebrates international musicians and the power of creative rehabilitation; award-winning learning-disabled arts company Carousel; and Little Green Pig, showcasing young and underrepresented writers in Brighton & Hove. A wider programme of craft, wellbeing and family events, plus live music and dance performances will take place Wednesdays to Sundays – from Iranian storytelling to screen printing workshops to Bhangra dance sessions.

Marwa Al-Sabouni says:

“The Riwaq is often figuratively used in Arabic traditions as a referential space for culture and knowledge: the Riwaq of poetry, the Riwaq of culture, and so on. At Brighton Festival, The Riwaq is going to represent this transitional space of exchange. It will not only embrace the wonderful performances and events which will take place on its stage, but also host a wide array of great and exciting activities under its roof. The Riwaq will be buzzing, filled with visitors contributing and transforming it into a beautiful meeting spot on the charming seafront of Hove.”

Acclaimed author and architect Marwa Al-Sabouni is a Brighton Festival 2022 guest co-director, alongside Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of Brighton-based theatre makers dreamthinkspeak. Her book, The Battle for Home, is a ‘visionary memoir’ and reflection on the role architecture plays in communities and was chosen by The Guardian as one of the best books of 2016. Her latest book, Building for Hope, published by Thames & Hudson, explores how conscious rebuilding in the aftermath of conflict and crisis might contribute to enduring peace in an increasingly polarizing world.

Marwa and Tristan have chosen the theme of Rebuilding as the inspiration for this year’s programme, exploring it from two different yet complementary perspectives.

The Riwaq is made possible with the support of major sponsor Moda Living, alongside the Timber Trade Federation and setWorks.

Lydia Whitaker, Director of Marketing and Wellbeing at MODA Living said:

“The Riwaq project is an inspirational work based on the importance of bringing communities together, and the value of interaction and experience to wellbeing. This is at the heart of what we do at Moda, where we’re dedicated to building sustainable neighbourhoods that have a positive impact and promote collaboration between communities. We’re proud to be a part of the Brighton Festival and look forward to celebrating arts and humanity with people from all over the world.”

Brighton Festival celebrates a return to full capacity in 2022, with an extensive international programme of over 150 events taking place across Sussex from 7-29 May.

Additional highlights from this year’s Brighton Festival include:

Marwa Al-Sabouni (14 May)

Festival Guest Co-Director, Marwa Al-Sabouni will reflect on the role of architecture in constructing a future with more hope and less conflict. After running her private architectural practice in Homs until war broke out in Syria in 2011, Marwa decided to stay while many people with the means fled. One of her acts of resistance was to write the autobiographical, The Battle for Home (2016), putting forward her transformative idea that architecture can play a pivotal role in minimising conflict.

In Conversation: Marwa Al-Sabouni & Mohamed Hafez (18 May)

Several years ago, Marwa Al-Sabouni came across artist and architect Mohamad Hafez’s work and was struck by its delicacy and sensitivity. As a Guest Co-Director for Brighton Festival 2022, Mohamad was one of the first artists Marwa proposed to stage his exhibition, Journeys From an Absent Present to a Lost Past, as part of this year’s Festival programme. Together for the first time, the pair explore themes central to their lives and work: architecture, home, beauty, and hope in the face of loss.

COP Conversations: What We Build – Diana Darke & Shahed Saleem (29 May)

Inspired by references to generational differences in Marwa’s latest book, Building for Hope, Brighton Festival explores the potential for finding revolutionary solutions via an inter-generational approach with curated Change our Planet (COP) online conversations.

Author Diana Darke’s Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe argues that architecture has a history of cross fertilisation and can potentially offer ways to heal the alienation that greets migrants across borders and to help new generations feel connected to the lands of their birth. Diana is joined online in conversation by architect and academic Shahed Saleem to discuss how architecture affects the way we live and how we find our place within the world.

Explore the full programme at