The project I will write about today is a great destination for scholars, students, and reading lovers, it is King Fahad’s National Library.
In 2013 Gerber Architekten was assigned to be the architect responsible for renovating this building to a public library. The exterior frame of the building had taken the form of a cuboid after renovation, while the existing interior structure remains untouched. The architect thought about keeping the Arabic style while adding a touch of modern technology to the newly created structure. However, if we look at the design of this building, it is clear that the architectural design was focused on delivering maximum function with minimum design approach.
Urban design meets Architecture
The vast landscape in front of the building designates the entrance to be quite welcoming. The diverse surfaces between soft and hardscape invites the outdoor space to be more than just an entry plaza, but to excites the area for mixed-use and plenty of social activities for users, such as food trucks, greeneries, and outdoor seating. The main lobby is visually connected to the outdoors and to the triple stories on top; which provides a majestic sense of the enclosed space to visitors. Moreover, it is fairly lit with the natural daylight entering through the building glass envelope. This open plaza was such a smart decision from the architect since the library is located between two major roads in Riyadh, King Fahad Road and Olaya Street, which creates an opportunity for outdoor events that engages students, new business owners, and locals of this lively neighborhood.
Technology meets Function
Technologies of the newly created facade system are based on a sophisticated steel cable structure that efficiently increases ventilation using the layered ventilation technology. The fabric shaded structure allows some uniformly distributed natural lighting into the building, in order to create a proper atmosphere for the occupants to quietly enjoy their studies, which strongly participates in achieving the intended purpose of the building’s function. This design language is starting to be more popular in Saudi as we see the architect based his shading techniques not only on function, but also on local environmental considerations, similar techniques are seen in Hajj terminal at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah as well as Madina Haram umbrella (Almasjid Alnabawi)
When it comes to circulation, it’s quite clear to visitors from the very first step. I remember my first visit to the building, I easily understood the circulation, as it was clearly intended to be a radial concentric path that revolves around the central dome structure. While the original structural system of the building was constructed using reinforced concrete, the newly created structure replaced the material with steel and glass. To illustrate further, the central concrete dome structure was later on reconstructed using glass and steel. In addition to the cuboid structure covering the original building. The visual openness the interior of the building has, gives users immediate understanding of the building that leads to comfortable feelings that is important to produce. However, the downside is, the public vertical circulation seems to be forced into the building and are not fully integrated to some extent. Thus, the better solution would be to rearrange the lift and the escalator to where it would be integrated within the structure yet still visible from the entrance.
What to expect!
Users’ experience can be described as a plentiful experience that is full of activities regarding the outdoors. And a quiet calm one indoors. As the interior of the building is focused on the quiet atmosphere to ensure a rich study environment, the simple interior finishes, the neutral tones on the floors, the blue fabrics of the furniture, the minimal Islamic white ornaments on the walls are visually pleasing and psychologically comfortable for the occupants. All these elements contribute to a calm undertone within the building.
Finally, The library embodies more than just books, it includes exhibition areas, a restaurant, and a bookshop; as for my favorite part, it has to be the private area for women to take comfort during their study/work time located on the first floor. I personally enjoyed the experience and wouldn’t mind making it my go-to study place.