Traditional values, new frontiers...

James
Monday 07 Mar 2011

HOK's library for KAUST breaks ground for sustainable technologies in Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a new international graduate-level research university located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, opened in September 2009 as a living laboratory for scientists pursuing groundbreaking sustainable technologies.

The academic library is situated at the physical and symbolic heart of the new university. The building opens to the campus' main circulation spine on one end and to the Red Sea on the other, relating the campus to the surrounding landscape. It is covered with a hyper-diagrid curtain wall system that diffuses the sunlight. The building's skylightsare shaded by perforated panels, creating intricate patterns of dappled light reminiscent of the traditional Middle Eastern mashrabiya screens.

The interior of the library has expansive volumes of space for its study areas and seminar rooms, anchored by a wood corewhich gradually steps down toward the sea, linking the plaza level with the topography of the site. This creates an inviting space where scientists come together and share ideas in a dramatic, yet comfortable setting. The warm environment serves to balance the more technical nature of the surrounding engineering and laboratory buildings.

In the Islamic tradition, the library serves as a 'House of Knowledge', bringing people together both socially and academically. KAUST is the first university in the Saudi Kingdom where women and men can mix and study freely together, and the library functionsas a gathering point at the centre of community life. The exterior of the building is covered in stone tiles that are visually solid during the day. In the evening, with campus activity at its peak, light radiates through the translucent stone and reveals the building's interior through the play of shadow. The library becomes a lanternon the campus, illuminating the central quad and radiating light across the sea. The library, along with the entire university campus, achieved LEED Platinum certification.

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