Area: 15 500 m²
Location: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Exhibition Design: RALPH APPELBAUM ASSOCIATES
Role: Building Design
Design proposal for this museum offers maximum of synergy between the architecture of the building and the exhibition design and content. Space is used not only as a frame but as an integral part of the story told. Dramatic changes in space, natural and artificial light, material, media, sound and world class artifacts are used to maximum effect and placed in strong relationship to the overall architecture of the building. On each floor an architecturally significant space with a high vaulted ceiling, is used for a particularly important part of the exhibition. The last and most impressive of these is located on the ground floor with its graceful vaults rising throughout all four floors of the building. Bridge-like passages over those vaulted spaces are used to create moments of transition highlighting turning points in history as well as passages from one era to another.
In contrast the recurring symmetric, decagonal spaces form the tranquil frame for contemplative subjects as well as exhibits which require circulation around a central element and smaller adjacent and more intimate spaces with daylight are used as study niches for those visitors who want to delve deeper into certain subjects.
Another very important design strategy is to develop a diversity of exhibition galleries to trigger very different experiences. These range from quiet contemplation to media interaction, from reverent wonder to animated social moments. At the same time the great variety in approaches serves the immense diversity of visitors to be expected. Originating from all over the world, and representing diverse cultures, visitors are assumed to be of all ages and from very different backgrounds.
The most important building material of the exhibition design – beside the space itself – will be light: Artificial light will be used to create different atmospheres for different parts of the exhibition. Keeping the strict conservation requirements of artifacts in mind, we propose a careful orchestration of artificial and incident natural light to create dramatic moments within the exhibition.
The building envelope derived from the structural pattern grid is largely divided into solid or transparent zones which develop into the facade design. The solid facade consists of two different façade types:
Type 1: The façade type 1 consists of solid and the porous facade elements in the perimeter of the building. Solid facade is used for the general exhibition to control the natural light impact, whereas the porous facade pattern is used for the study areas to allow natural light to pass through.
Type 2: The façade type 2 consists of solid concrete fins (shading elements) in front of the solidSTRUCTURE CONCEPT
The structure for the museum is closely coordinated with the architectural design concept. The efficiency of arches as loadbearing geometries allows for an efficient and effective structural system. The main vertical loadbearing elements are following the perimeter of the decagons and are designed as vertical reinforced concrete walls. At the perimeter of the building, a structural facade system allows for additional support. Together with the concrete cores for the elevators and staircases these walls provide the lateral stability for the building. As the decagon walls are intersecting it is feasible to allow for large openings in the walls without compromising the structural integrity. Therefore a very porous looking structural system can be achieved.