Nearly 1000 days after the first sketches were drawn, KAUST welcomed its inaugural class to campus
KAUST was designed in response to an extraordinary set of circumstances. In the context of a hot, humid and marine climate, the team was charged with creating a low-energy, highly sustainable, state-of-the-art research campus and community. The team was asked to design an institution of the highest physical quality, one that would attract the global scientific community, at a historically unprecedented speed – the entire campus and community had to be planned, designed and built in less than three years.
The 1,416-hectare campus was designed as a singular meta-building with all spaces interconnected and served from a common base. A continuous pedestrian spine bisects and interconnects the research buildings. The spine is an active, outdoor concourse that houses conferencing, retail, cafes and social spaces. It is passively cooled by the shade of the roof and wind harvested from solar towers. The spine connects the campus to the town center and residential neighbourhoods on its northern end the research park on the southern end. This overall organisation improves energy performance, facilitates collaboration and endows the campus with a distinct sense of place.
The contemporary aesthetic and approach to planning and design is grounded in historical, regional precedents including: the compact nature of the traditional Arabic city; the social density of the souk; the ability to filter sunlight and create poetic patterns of shade and shadow with the mashrabiya; the Bedouin tent’s efficiency in providing shelter from the sun and the use of shaded courtyards and wind towers in traditional Arabic buildings.
The use of these elements borrows from age-old building and planning wisdom of the region, manifested into a contemporary environment. As the first LEED certified project in Saudi Arabia and the largest LEED Platinum project in the world, KAUST is demonstrating new ways to plan, build and operate in the region by promoting responsible stewardship of the environment.