Agha Khan Award 2016: King Fahad National Library

Agha Khan Award 2016: King Fahad National Library

For the next two weeks, designMENA will be selecting five projects from the 19 shortlisted Agha Khan Award projects, each focusing on a different area of architecture.

Night view of the facade

The first project is the King Fahad National Library in Royadh, Saudi Arabia, designed by German practice, Gerber Architekten International, which was completed in 2013.

The existing national library has been expanded by the architects, doubling the size of the overall space, as well as building a new skin around the original structure.

A cuboid shape was created to fit around the old 1980s library building on all sides, clad by lozenge-shaped textile awnings. The white membranes, supported by a three-dimensional, tensile-stressed steel cable structure, act as sunshades and reinterpret the Arabian tent structure traditional using low-energy.

The square shaped new building is covered by a filigree sun protection textile façade following traditional Islamic architectural patterns and linking them with state of the art technology.

“We felt that the national library is about conserving the culture, to preserve everything that was ever written from Saudis, or about Saudi Arabia so we preserved the existing building of the national library and used it as the core of the new national library,” said Thomas Lucking, the architect behind the project.

The old building is integrated into the new one, and now operates as an internal stack.

“We built the new building around it and covered it with one roof. That is why you see tensile structures with fabric that is the screen around the building, which is a sun shading,” he added.

White membranes gently distribute the indirect daylight throughout the entire interior.

One of the particular challenges in the facade was the wide range of temperatures in Riyadh. In the summer, the steel cables heat up to a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius  and expands, while in the winter they shrink due to night time temperatures dropping to below zero.

The existing dome, originally in concrete, has been reconstructed in steel and glass to allow daylight in its centre. It is still a symbol of the library.

These were the factors taken into account, with the architects focusing on increasing the thermal comforts and energy consumption that were reduced by layered ventilation and floor cooling for the first time in the Arab world.

King Fahad National Library with landscaped public square.

The dome of the former building has been reconstructed in glass and steel to bring in daylight, with the former roof now providing a well-lit reading space.

The main entrance hall for the library is on the ground floor, with a separate area for women on the first floor.


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