Bofill and Gerber Architekten tie in Nobel Qur’an Oasis competition in Saudi Arabia
An invited competition to create a landmark Islamic cultural center in the Saudi Arabian desert has resulted in a tie for first place between Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura and Gerber Architekten.
Located outside of Medina, the project unites a combination of program spaces to create a global center for Islamic education and religious knowledge, including a museum, research center, educational component, library and cafes.
The project is intended to restore the historic holy city of Medina to its former prominence as a globally recognized Islamic culture center. Bofill and Gerber Architekten bested entries by gmp architecten and Zaha Hadid.
The Bofill scheme takes its inspiration from the first Islamic City and features a series of covered circular forms with a palm oasis in the foreground and fruit trees and native plants irrigated by a system of water canals to create a micro climate.
A traditional pattern of courtyards and narrow streets meshed within the structure encloses generously sized spaces, which define this center for the research, study and transmission of the Nobel Qur’an as a unique place strongly related to Al-Amdinah Al-Munawarah and its environment.
The complex is designed with simple, pure lines with the goal of creating a calm environment for the study and research of the Nobel Qur’an. At the heart of the complex is a library that will contain books scrolls and manuscripts.
The scheme by Gerber Architekten is envisioned as a ‘hidden garden’ that contrasts with the harsh desert that surrounds it. The composition creates a dynamic series of spaces with changing exposure between light and dark to produce a variety of experiences for visitors.
At the center of the site is a plaza that features a sculptural form and a subterranean ‘acoustical chamber’ below. The latter is a large cave-like vault intended as a bright and awe-inspiring conclusion to a lengthy and dark approaching journey.
This void is reached by a series of underground passageways approaching from various points at the site that will hold exhibitions and progressively become darker as the the visitor journeys through them.