UK studio wins competition to design Islamic museum in Mecca


UK studio Mossessian Architecture has won a competition to design Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Museum, a building dedicated to the Islamic faith.

It will occupy a site seven kilometres from the Grand Mosque, in Makkah, which houses the Kaaba – the most sacred location in the world for Muslims.


The will include 5,600m2 of gallery space to host exhibitions related to the history of Islam along with a reception area, auditorium, book store, teaching space, roof garden and restaurant.

“The Makkah Museum will offer a unique interpretation and reflection of faith to the millions of Muslims who visit Makkah from around the world and who, up until this point, have had no cultural institution of this kind to enhance their visit to the holiest of Muslim cities,” said a statement from Mossessian.

The architect firm teamed up with Paris exhibition design company Studio Adeline Rispal to enter the invited competition for the museum project.

Makkah Museum by Mossessian Architecture

Rispal designed a central void inside the structure to act as a “virtual minaret” that visitors ascend as they move through the exhibitions.

The studio said: “Both circular (like the celestial sphere) and ascending (symbolising the spiritual journey), the central minaret-shaped void calls upon the Muslim community to transcend earthly concerns through their faith – and pursuing the quest for knowledge onwards into infinity.”

At the top, visitors will be able to access a climate-controlled garden space, which is designed to be usable even in the extreme heat of Saudi Arabia’s summers.

Makkah Museum by Mossessian Architecture

The underside of the spiralling stairs leading back down will be inscribed with the 99 Names of Allah, which will be viewable from a dedicated gallery space at the bottom.

Makkah Museum by Mossessian Architecture

The outside wall of the museum will incorporate stone sourced from every country in the world where Islam is currently practiced. Hujaz rock from the mountains around Mecca will be used for the interior.

“Inside, the rock is used to create alcoves and plinths that visitors encounter as they mount the ramp,” said the architect. “These house the exhibition displays, which tell the story of the life of the Prophet and enrich understanding about Islam.”

Based in London, Mossessian Architecture was founded in 2005 by architect Michel Mossessian. The studio has a large number projects currently under way in the Middle East and Africa, including the regeneration of the Place Lalla Yeddouna at the heart of the historic Medina in Fez, Morocco.

UK projects include mixed-use towers in London’s Paddington Basin and offices in King’s Cross.

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