Project Name: The Saudi Ambassador Residence

Location: Warsaw, Poland

Date Completed: May 2015

Company Name: SACD (Sonia Ashoor Cultural Consultants)

Designer: SACD (Sonia Ashoor Cultural Consultants)

Architect: Filip Domaszczynski XY studio

The Saudi Ambassador residence located in Warsaw, Poland is part of a dual complex consisting of Embassy and Residence. The total property spans over 3,000 sqm, and both buildings connect through an internal courtyard on the ground floor and from the Ambassadors office to the residence on the second floor.

The Residence consists of four floors to include a spa on the basement level complete with Olympic size pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, showers and locker rooms. The ground floor consists of three living rooms of which one has an eastern ambiance a powder room, kitchenette and a formal dining room. The first floor consists of a family room, dining, kitchen, study room and three en-suite children bedrooms. The second floor consists of three children en-suite bedrooms and the Master suite.

The client requested an interior that was contextually relevant to Poland, yet culturally attuned to Saudi Arabia and its mission to promote Islamic art and identity. In World War II, Warsaw saw 100% destruction and a metropolis of 1 million was diminished to 20,000 people. With wars end, Warsaw set a course for reconstructing its city making ‘culture’ part of its top five priorities. This included, new roads, schools, the public library, the Opera House and the National Museum. This was achieved in a ten-year plan which gained them a UNESCO achievement award. Warsaw, rebuilt itself to the style of the 16th century in memory of its Golden age, when Chopin could be heard in the streets of Warsaw. Taking on board this cultural direction, the designers matched it in designing in the style of museum interiors, reviving the 16th century of Islamic art and architecture.

Sonia Ashoor and her design team were inspired by the Iznik tiles of the Ottoman Empire and the beautiful manuscripts of the Safavid Dynasty. They dissected colours, patterns and glazes of these tiles to create artistic lacquer art panels throughout the residence. The manuscripts inspired the space planning, creating a story of meandering spaces with a feel of overlap, transparency and calculated views. Its intricate writings and illuminations of both manuscript and tiles, inspired the calligraphy in both the stone and lacquer panels. Spaces are void of decoration and all artistic expressions are limited to the hard interior. Completing the museum feel carefully selected artefacts are displayed on stands and glass cases marrying the old with the new creating spaces that tell stories celebrating the 16th century of Islamic Art.

The stone and lacquer art panels developed with graphic designer Ruba Mukahal was said to be the favourite aspect of the project. The interiors are built on a very strong storyline addressing the cultural interest of both Poland in art and Saudi Arabia’s interest in promoting Islamic art and identity. This project has enabled a much needed cultural dialogue among the two countries and spurred an interest in creating collaborative cultural events at both embassy and residence. As this project was built on a museum concept, both in its architecture and interior, to open a dialogue with Poland through its cultural interest. The embassy and residence, have taken on the role of art and cultural ambassadors with private tours of their premises to the interested public. Special skills and artisans were used to complete this project, graphic designer, Ruba Mukahal, was responsible for all the stone and lacquer art panels, the contractor, Warbud is a specialised contractor in sovereign and cultural projects, which includes the Warsaw Science Museum. His expertise made this project a true success and Metamar, stone artisans, who were responsible for all the beautiful stone carved panels.