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Creative Coworking in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

Saudi Arabia, June 12, 2018

When it comes to workspace trends, coworking has quickly risen to the top over the last two years. In 2017, 1.1 million people set up shop at a coworking space worldwide, and the Gulf Arab states are no exception. Coworking spaces have grown quickly in Dubai, Riyadh, Doha, and other major urban hubs, and while many of them host young entrepreneurs, some are narrowing their focus even further to creative and artistic work.

One of those is Wejha, established in Salmiya near Kuwait City in 2018. CEO and founder Abdulaziz Al-Awadhi envisioned Wejha as an “Artist’s Heaven,” a space catering specifically to artists – photographers, painters, musicians, and others. The idea for the project came out of his need for a space that would support his own work as an Arabic calligrapher, a job, he says, that is too messy to do from home. Wejha sets itself apart from other coworking spaces in Kuwait by including music, photography, and art studies, as well as a workshop area and a gallery.

In Jeddah, Sheeza and Mohammad Shehzad saw a demand for affordable work spaces for startups and launched Kayanspace in 2011. While originally envisioned as an incubator accelerator, Kayanspace gradually became a choice space for artists, designers, and creative entrepreneurs, who have access to its creative hall to hold events, galleries, and workshops.

AGSIW spoke to Abdulaziz about his plans for Wejha, as well as to Sheeza to learn about Kayanspace and its role in Saudi Arabia’s work culture.

Abdulaziz Al-Awadhi

AGSIW: What made you decide to found Wejha?

Abdulaziz: I needed a place to work because I had a new idea that I wanted to produce my own [handmade] paper. It’s messy, so I cannot work at home. That’s why I decided to have my own space, but as you know, renting a whole area for yourself in Kuwait is expensive. So, I came up with the coworking space for artists.

AGSIW: What does Wejha bring to the entrepreneurial culture of Kuwait? What does it add to the artistic culture?

Abdulaziz: We are aiming to expand awareness of the importance of art … We are trying to grow internationally to show how much Kuwaiti artists are capable of achieving an international reputation. We still have little knowledge about art, and most people think that it is not important. But as you can see through history, art and architecture are the only things you can know about those historical societies. When art starts somewhere, you know that the people were living in a good place where they all had their basic needs provided for, like food, shelter, and community.

Here in Kuwait, we have a saying: Art won’t feed you. That is wrong; art is the most transcendent type of business … If you see the Renaissance movement in Italy 800 years ago, it started with art and artists. Rich people used to have spaces especially for artists, and they used to provide them with everything they needed. And it’s really more than just making a painting; it’s something bigger than that – it changed the way they used to think about everything.

AGSIW: What are your plans for Wejha?

Abdulaziz: As a start, we would love to participate in international galleries, and travel around with our artists to show our talents. And then we hope to grow in the GCC and Middle East region. After that, we would love to have this kind of coworking space all over the world.

Sheeza Shehzad

AGSIW: What motivated you to start Kayanspace?

Sheeza: Early creative ideas often struggle to develop and grow because of isolation. When designing the space, Kayanspace was created to offer resources, inspiration, and collaboration opportunities for like-minded entrepreneurs to help overcome this challenge. Today, Kayanspace is home to both Saudis and expats who form part of our creative community of members, working together to exchange and share ideas, promote their brands and services and explore new opportunities.

AGSIW: What makes Kayanspace different from other coworking spaces in Saudi Arabia?

Sheeza: Offering a unique coworking ecosystem, Kayanspace’s spatial philosophy is inspired by its Arabic roots that signify the coordinated form of a hand, which involves connective bones, tissues, and muscles working in unison to function together. The working space is designed to support members’ creative beginnings and innovations by incubating a working ethos based on connectivity, coordination, and collaboration, like the function of a hand.

AGSIW: You describe Kayanspace as a creative coworking ecosystem. Can you expand on that?

Sheeza: Kayanspace is a creative workspace for a growing community of dynamic creative entrepreneurs. The science behind the design is threefold: transparent room dividers to ensure sunlight flows from room to room, as natural brightness is conducive to creative thinking; minimalizing clutter, promoting airy and open spaces to enable the free flow of movement in order to generate creative ideas; and the use of whites and silver to encourage a friendly, dynamic, and energetic environment.

The creative hall is the heart of Kayanspace, where members can organize seminars, events, exhibitions, and workshops. This space is aimed at supporting the exchange of ideas, brainstorming, and networking.