The Diriyah Biennale Foundation Announces Details of The AlMusalla Prize, a New Architectural Competition

Shortlisted architecture studios, jury and competition revealed

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From left to right: Hala Nahas (Dabbagh Architects), Nicolas Fayad (EAST Architecture Studio), Christopher Blust (AKT II, in consortium with EAST Architecture Studio), Zaure Aitayeva (Asif Khan), Prince Nawaf Bin Ayyaf (jury chair), Asif Khan (Asif Khan), Sahel AlHiyari (Office of Sahel AlHiyari for Architecture), Elias Anastas (AAU Anastas), Yousef Anastas (AAU Anastas).

Photo by Amer Alhilabi, courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
  • The AlMusalla Prize is an international architecture competition for the design of a musalla, a modular space for prayer and contemplation open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to be built on the site of the Islamic Arts Biennale at the Western Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • The shortlisted architects are AAU Anastas (Palestine), Sahel AlHiyari (Jordan), EAST Architecture Studio (Lebanon/United Arab Emirates), Dabbagh Architects (Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates), and Asif Khan (United Kingdom).
  • Jury members for the competition are Prince Nawaf Bin Ayyaf (jury chair), Farrokh Derakhshani, Lina Ghotmeh, Azra Aksamija, and Ali Malkawi. The inauguration of the musalla will coincide with the opening of the second edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale on January 25, 2025.

The Diriyah Biennale Foundation is proud to announce the shortlisted architecture studios, competition details, and jury for the AlMusalla Prize, a unique international architecture competition for a musalla. The musalla, a space for prayer and gathering in Muslim culture, will be built on the iconic site of the Islamic Arts Biennale, the first and only biennial dedicated to the arts of Islamic civilization. As part of the Biennale’s second edition and inspired by the historical, cultural, and architectural significance of the SOM–designed and Aga Khan Award–winning Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah, the AlMusalla Prize celebrates the ideas of diverse architectural teams from different cultures within the Arab world and beyond.

The shortlisted teams for the 2025 AlMusalla Prize are AAU Anastas from Palestine, Sahel AlHiyari from Jordan, EAST Architecture Studio from Lebanon/United Arab Emirates, Dabbagh Architects from Saudi Arabia/United Arab Emirates, and Asif Khan from the United Kingdom. The selection criteria guiding the shortlisting of the five finalists included the studios’ previous built work, their multidisciplinary teams and a presentation of their knowledge of Islamic art and architecture. As part of the second phase of the competition, they will propose a design for a musalla.

The musalla should be a versatile, modular space for gathering, contemplation, and prayer inviting both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors. The musalla will be operational for the four months of the Biennale and will be dismantled, transported to a new destination, and rebuilt after its closing. Part of the competition brief is to consider the legacy of the musalla and suggest a new location and function for the space, offering the finalists the opportunity to contribute to its programming. The structure should meet all requirements for prayer, be of at least 50 square metres in size, and be sustainable in its method of construction. In addition to having their design built, the competition winner will also receive a monetary prize of $100,000.

The jury for the AlMusalla Prize brings together a rich set of experiences in architectural history, practice, and sustainability, particularly in the field of Islamic architecture. It is comprised of Prince Nawaf Bin Ayyaf (jury chair), senior advisor to the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia; Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; Lina Ghotmeh, architect and founder of Lina Ghotmeh – Architecture; Azra Aksamija, artist, architectural historian, and Director of the MIT Future Heritage Lab; and Ali Malkawi, Professor of Architectural Technology at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Director of Harvard Center for Green Buildings.

Prince Nawaf Bin Ayyaf, jury chair of the AlMusalla Prize:

“We’re incredibly proud of the finalists that have reached this final stage of the competition. This unique prize is taking upon itself the hefty responsibility of advancing the discourse on musalla architecture typologies — by tapping into both its temporality and omnipresence, fundamentally as a space of worship but also as a place of gathering and socializing. By encouraging new ways of merging the latest building technologies that are inspired by traditional crafts, the AlMusalla Prize will create a structure that is reflective of our current times but also one that is deeply rooted in traditions of the Islamic faith and representative of its cultures. We hope the work we do today in this inaugural version will not only create a memorable landmark that will stand as a wonderful testament to the legacy of the Islamic Arts Biennale, but also will inspire others to participate in future iterations of this unique prize in the years ahead. The AlMusalla Prize takes its rightful place among the best practices of awards that celebrates sustainability, creativity, inclusion and ingenuity in design.”

Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation:

“Creating spaces that invite reflection and contemplation is intimately connected with our purpose as a foundation: to craft perspectives. We are thrilled to announce the AlMusalla Prize as part of the second edition of the Islamic Arts Biennale, and to engage with contestants whose body of knowledge includes translating our purpose into a space of prayer, open to Muslims and non–Muslims alike. We are honored to welcome our esteemed jury to this initiative and thank them for their commitment to our shared ambitions.”

The AlMusalla Prize is organized in collaboration with the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture, which has an international track record in the promotion and development of innovative architectural practice in mosque design in the twenty-first century.

The competition winner will be announced later this year, with the opening of the musalla to be held on January 25, 2025.

Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) is the organiser of this invited design competition, on behalf of The Diriyah Biennale Foundation.



The Diriyah Biennale Foundation’s Islamic Arts Biennale provides a holistic platform for new discourse about Islamic arts, offering an unparalleled space for learning, research, and insight. The exhibition takes place every two years at the Aga Khan Award–winning Western Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, a city that for centuries has represented a junction point for cultural exchange and a venue that acts as a port of entry for millions of pilgrims on their journey to Makkah and Madinah.


Inspired by the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia and the heritage site of Diriyah, the Diriyah Biennale Foundation assumes a critical role in nurturing creative expression and instilling an appreciation for culture and the arts and their transformative potential. The Foundation aspires to be a catalyst for lifelong learning and serves Saudi Arabia’s communities by offering opportunities to engage with the burgeoning local art scene. Central to the Foundation’s mandate is staging two recurring world-class biennales in contemporary and Islamic arts, organizing year-round interactive educational programs, and overseeing the activation of JAX, a creative district with industrial heritage based in Diriyah. At this historical moment of evolution and growth in Saudi Arabia, DBF’s biennales showcase some of the world’s leading artists, drive cultural exchange between the Kingdom and international communities, promote dialogue and understanding, and further establish Saudi Arabia as an important cultural center.