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Mecca under evolution

Top architects secret mission revealed as Mecca project nears completion

by Niki May Young 05 December 2008


It is one of the most ancient and religious places in the world and the holiest city in Islam so it’s no surprise that the architects rumoured to be ‘redesigning’ the sacred ground are remaining shy about confirming their involvement. But shy is not a word commonly associated with Zaha Hadid, or Lord Norman Foster. Neither confirming nor denying their involvement, both firms’ press offices have ‘no comment’ on the development which, according to news sources around the world, would triple the capacity of the Masjid al-Haram Mosque (Holy Harram), which accommodates nearly 3 million pilgrims during the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The city has been under transformation for some years now with a development consisting of seven towers, known as Abraj Al Bait towers, currently under construction across from the entrance to the Holy Harram. Designed by international multi-disciplinary Dar Al-Handasah, the mixed-use development consists of a cluster of towers atop a podium holding the greatest built up area of any building in the world at 1.5 million sq m. Six of the towers will accommodate residential with the last functioning as a 5-star hotel and the podium holding shopping and conference facilities. Once the hotel tower is complete next year it will be the tallest in Saudi Arabia and one of the tallest in the world at 595m high. As estimated in 2002 the project, which overlooks the Holy Haram, is costing in excess of US $2billion and is due to complete in 2009.

Hadid and Foster are rumoured to be among 18 of the world’s top architects invited to expand the mosque which is already the world’s largest at 356,800 sq m. The development would be the fourth notable extension to the Mosque to date with the last being the addition of the King’s residence which ended in 2005.

Niki May Young
News Review

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