Friday Sermon; Bahrain’s National Pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2018

Text by Farah Abdel Jawad
Photos by Giulia Bruno

The Bahrain National Pavilion in its fifth participation explored this year’s theme of Freespace, by tackling the topic of Sermon or Khutba.  Friday Sermon is a religious ritual organized by oratory practice usually performed every Friday in all mosques around the world due to its important role in shaping collective life, public opinion, and in providing a common space for Muslim communities.


Curated by both Nora Akawi, an architect and researcher based in New York, USA and Amman, Jordan and Noura Al Sayeh an architect based in Bahrain, Bahrain’s participation in this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice is articulated as “Friday Sermon”.

The Pavilion mirrors the implications of transforming a common space into the different possibilities of free spaces of assembly. It tracks the progress of this communal ritual of preaching and collectively listening in various cities all over the world.

The exhibition is designed by Apparata Studio and consists of a large-scale structure that hosts a sound installation by Giuseppe Ielasi and Khyam Alami based on recordings of Friday sermons in Bahrain.The installation defines a central void under which one can experience the sound installation and references the sacred space of the religious, while the periphery of the installation, hosts three different contributions, each exploring a different aspect of the Friday sermon Practices. The All Hearing, a video installation by artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan investigates the effects of “loudspeaker libertarianism” in Cairo and its consequences on hearing damage and noise pollution in the city. The installation by Matilde Cassani looks into the architecture of the minbar and its adaptation in the Italian context while Mezna Qato and Sadia Shirazi present 3 Scores & the People’s Mic Khutba, a book of scores responding to Muslim social life under siege and that reimagines different formats for the Friday sermon.


A collection of five different essays form the scientific content of the exhibition and offer a historical overview of the origins, history and evolutions of the practices of the Friday sermon, as well as its use for political purposes. The essays are accompanied by a portfolio of images by Camille Zakharia taken in Bahrain, as well as archival images of the rituals of the sermon from New York to Amman. The collection of essays and images will form the basis of the exhibition catalogue, readily available for consultation at the pavilion.

The pavilion, located in the Arsenale (Artiglierie), is commissioned by her Excellency Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Project Details;

Commissioned by Sh. Mai Al Khalifa
Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities

Curated by Nora Akawi and Noura Al Sayeh

Research: Maryam Al Jomairi, Batool Al Shaikh and Gizem Sivri

With contributions from: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Khyam Allami, Matilde Cassani, Giuseppe Ielasi, A Future Collective (Mezna Qato and Sadia Shirazi)

Exhibition Design: Apparata Architects
(project team: Astrid Smitham, Nicholas Lobo Brennan, Oliver Choyce)

Sound Design: Giuseppe Ielasi

Graphic Design: (Studio) Jonathan Hares and Amaury Hamon

Exhibition production and installation: Restaura SRL
Ronchetti, Milan

Structural Engineer: Mario Monotti

More Images on the Bahrain National Pavilion


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