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Lighting the Skies of Arabia

posted on: May 14, 2015

Abdulaziz Al-Azem grew up in Jeddah then moved to Beirut to study interior architecture at the Lebanese American University (LAU). While in LAU, Al-Azem developed a fascination for the relationship between light and architecture. “How architects shape their buildings in order to allow daylight to penetrate different spaces creating an amazing play of shadow and light,” according to him.

Therefore, Al-Azem took up a minor in Islamic architecture. While growing up in Jeddah, he would work at his family’s lighting retail business (Technolight). At Techolight, Al-Azem learned how to develop lighting designs as how to match themes and atmosphere for each building to fit in different spaces’ interior and exterior, e.g. fast food joints, mosques, high-end restaurants, retails shops and corporate offices.

After graduating from LAU, Al-Azem took an apprenticeship in Germany at the lighting consultancy office of Kardorff. The experience there was eye-opening, as it was the first time where Al-Azem was allowed the opportunity to put his theoretical knowledge in practice. He worked on presenting innovative lighting concepts to clients in the Gulf region. His mentor, Volker Von Kardoff, highly recommended that he pursues a Master’s program at Hochschule Wismar, where Al-Azem learned how to manipulate physics to be creative with light.  Al-Azem’s thesis was titled Sacred Nour; a visual treatise in the theory of lighting of mosques and other Islamic structures.

In order to write his thesis, Al-Azem travelled to Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, and Tripoli (Lebanon) and spent so much time in mosques during the day. “Islamic architecture is very rich and varied” maintains Al-Azem. In Damascus, he spent time in Umayyad Mosque, Al-Athem Palace, and Khan Asaad Pasha Al-Azem. In Tripoli, he spent 12 hours observing and tracing the light rays at the Grand Mosque of Tripoli, while in Istanbul, he dwelt in the Suleymaniye Mosque, pondering Mimar Sinan’s genius view of the concept of light.  Al-Azem was attracted to the ascetic architecture of mosques in Cairo and Istanbul. His thesis was received with such acclaim from his mentors and peers. Upon repatriating in Saudi Arabia, he launched his lighting design business Design Tech Services, headquartered in Riyadh.

Design Tech Services took on many projects in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dubai. One of the earlier projects was the mosque in King Abdullah Financial District in 2010 in Riyadh and Al-Jaleel Mosque in Jeddah.