KSA mosque designed by Schiattarella Associati applies vernacular architecture

Located in Ha’il, a small city in the north of Saudi Arabia, the new Al Jabri Mosque by architecture studio Schiattarella Associati will be set against the backdrop of the Samra mountainscape upon completion next year.

The surrounding region, Najd, encompasses a built environment that is essentially influenced by its hot and dry climate as well as its socio-cultural traditions, where dwellings are closely clustered and separated by narrow roads to ensure constant shade. It also includes mixed-use complexes, such as mosques, private buildings, squares and souks, all in close proximity to one another.

“From a formal point of view, Najd architecture was made of simple and essential volumes, sometimes with irregular geometry due to natural conditions and construction techniques, with few and small openings (and no or minimal decoration),” explained director, Andrea Schiattarella.

“These solid volumes are remarked by the effect of the strong light of the desert: either full light or net shadow, never intermediate solutions. Most of these features are reflected in our design.”

Schiattarella went on to explain that although the region has travelled away from traditional forms and manners of building by “importing Western or American models for its urban development”, the architects hoped to create a mosque complex that is a “a little sherd of a ‘slow city’, where activities are organised around pedestrian areas… And buildings are dimensioned on a human scale to provide shade and comfort.”

The 22,500m2 Al Jabri Mosque, which can host 3,000 worshipers, is set within a building complex that acts as both a service structure with religious and educational functions, as well as a landmark for the community in the area.

The building has a reinforced concrete structure, with the main mosque’s roof structure made of steel trusses. The exterior façade is created from local yellow limestone, a traditional building material in the region, alongside mud constructions.

The main mosque is the dominant structure within the overall building complex, which features a white inner volume – an architectural element used to filter in natural light.

The complex is developed around an enclosed central square, designed to act as a meeting point. Access to the square is enabled through covered passages and small, shaded courtyards.

Commercial activities are set around the central plaza, including coffee shops and restaurants, as well as offices, libraries, an Islamic school and sports facilities for young age groups, located on the upper levels.
“The mosque stands tall and will become a local landmark of great visibility,” said Schiattarella. “It appears as if it’s suspended on water, marking the symbolic passage from outside to inside through purification, floating lightweight in the air despite its size.”

He continued, “It is a place of sacredness and meditation. During the day the natural light seeps through vertically slipping along the two walls, bouncing off from one wall to the other and diagonally bursting into the mosque, lighting up in its lower bound.

“The inner space is crossed by suffused and indirect light which reflects on the rough surface of the walls and deeply penetrates into the mosque. Light increases its intensity while approaching the mihrab (the semi-circular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of the Kaaba). The result is a space where light dominates, underlining its sacredness and fostering meditation and prayer.”

Al Jabri Mosque isn’t the architect’s first project in the Gulf country. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Sports awarded a contract to Schiattarella Associati for the modification of the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh. Under the terms of the deal, the architects will oversee the refurbishment of a section of the stadium large enough to accommodate almost 50,000 spectators.

The company’s proposal features an artificial hill at the base of the stadium, which will be used to link ground and concourse-level bleachers. A green area will separate the hill and the stadium, allowing natural light to drench its entrances and act as a filter between the facility and its parking lots.

DesignMENA recently wrote about contemporary architecture from Saudi Arabia, click here to read the story.

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