SOM design stands the test of time

Monday 01 Feb 2010

Hajj Terminal is fifth SOM project to win AIA Twenty Five Year award

The King Abdul Aziz International Airport - Hajj Terminal, designed by Skidmore, Merrill and Owings (SOM) has received the 2010 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Twenty-Five Year award. Located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the terminal’s design utilises the highly identifiable form of the Bedouin tent to create the world’s largest cable-stayed, fabric-roofed structure, serving over one million pilgrims every year.

The award jury commented: “With a very simple bay repeated quite beautifully, they set the standard for many airports since…The architects created a highly sustainable project well ahead of the green movement…The terminal presents a sense of place, ecology, economy of means, and culture – not imposing on but learning from the local culture and environment.”

Designed by SOM’s Chicago and New York offices, and completed in 1981, the Hajj Terminal becomes a temporary city for Muslims who decamp from planes and await transportation to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina during the six weeks of the Islamic faith known as Hajj. SOM created a series of tent-like structures which shelter up to 80,000 pilgrims at a time. The 485,622 sq m terminal consists of two identical roofed halves separated by a landscaped central mall. The first half of the terminal contains air conditioned buildings; the second half is a vast, open-sided temperate waiting and support area. The Teflon-coated fiberglass roof structure consists of 10 modules of 21 semi-conical fabric roof units. Each module is supported by 45-metre tall steel cables along the rooftop. Nearly 40 million travellers have passed through the Hajj Terminal since its completion.

Jeffrey J. McCarthy, AIA, Partner in SOM’s Chicago office commented: “On behalf of all of the SOM partners, we are honoured to receive this prestigious award from the AIA. It is an award that we value above all others. However, it is a gift of legacy that we inherit from those that worked before us. We graciously accept this in their honour.”The original team included Gordon Bunshaft, FAIA, Gordon Wildermuth, FAIA, and structural engineer Fazlur Khan.

The AIA Twenty-Five Year award, recognising architectural design of enduring significance, is conferred on a project that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years as an embodiment of architectural excellence. SOM has won four previous Twenty-Five Year awards for the Lever House in New York, the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, John Hancock Center in Chicago, and the Weyerhaeuser Headquarters in Federal Way, Washington.

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