The King Fahd National Library located in the Olaya district of the capital Riyadh, is a strong cultural symbol of knowledge. It serves as the main legal deposit and copyright office of the kingdom.

Arch2o-King Fahd National Library Riyadh  Gerber Architekten (2)

Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

The design for its expansion goes back to 2003 when Prof. Eckhard Gerber and his Gerber Architeckten team proposed a building within a building expansion scheme.

Arch2o-King Fahd National Library Riyadh  Gerber Architekten (7)

Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

Their proposal for the expansion was to cover the existing building on all sides with their proposed cuboid shaped new one thus providing a new symbolic architectural image for the Riyadh cityscape. This meant that the old building still existed serving as the core of the new one, a sort of layer of temporality from old to new translated by the novelty in materials and building technics of the new building against the old traditional one.

Arch2o-King Fahd National Library Riyadh  Gerber Architekten (9)

Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

Architecturally, the existing building has a cruciform shape topped by a concrete dome. The new structure envelops the existing one on all sides. The old dome is reconstructed in steel and glass and the former roof now serves as an open floor for reading flooded by the skylight.

The entrance to the building is on the ground floor which houses the exhibition areas, restaurant and bookshop. A women exclusive area is provided on the first floor where they can spend time without the burka.

Arch2o-King Fahd National Library Riyadh  Gerber Architekten (10)

Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

The façade is made up off a cladding system of rhomboid textile awnings. This is the most remarkable element of the exterior. Supported on a three-dimensional filigree steel cable structure, the white membranes allow 7 per cent of solar penetration and are a way of expressing the Arabian tent heritage.

The utility of the façade is also its ability to protect from direct sunrays by its complex three-dimensional refraction. It also provides combined ventilation and cooling.

Arch2o-King Fahd National Library Riyadh  Gerber Architekten (8)

Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

On an urban scale the building occupies a notable urban space. Surrounded by green space and a spacious square, the site links the King Fahd Road to the Olaya Street, two main traffic axes of the capital. The square therefore grants direct access to the library. The new library will surely be a focal point in the years to come.

By Hassan Mohammed Yakubu

 Courtesy of Gerber Architekten

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