Text description provided by the architects. As we told you on a previous post, last week we were in Saudi Arabia visiting the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). We showed you some renderings and the construction process, and now we bring you more details on this 6.5 million sqf LEED Platinum project, including a video with Bill Odell, design partner at HOK.
The project consists of two parts, the campus and the university town with facilities and accommodations for students, faculty and staff.
The main area of the campus consists of 10 volumes facing the Red Sea, housing the administrative offices, student services, library, a mosque, labs, research centers and an auditorium. A Costal Studies Center is still under construction and will be opened next January.
The first building we visited was the Library, the main volume overlooking the Red Sea.
The service and circulations core is located at the center of the plan, freeing the perimeter for books, study areas, computers, etc. The lateral facades have a translucent double skin with a steel structure. This skin allows the interior to be filled with natural light. At the end of the volume, overlooking the sea, the interior takes all the height with a space for group and individual study, with a great view.
Transversal to these volumes, there is an open circulation that connects all the buildings. As you can see, the mass of the volumes cast big shadows protecting the entrances to the interior spaces.
Between the volumes, you find covered patios with a perforated roof that filter the light and allows the air to flow.
Fountains on the ground level cool the air, which is constantly flowing trough this chimneys. In my opinion, this circulation was very well achieved in this extreme weather, and I could constantly feel the refreshing flow of air when walking between the buildings. A highlight of the project.
Inside the research buildings, we find triple height spaces at the center. These spaces, intersected by open bridges, give a social richness to the interior, visually connecting the different work areas.
As for the materiality, most of the facades are covered with Hunter Douglas’ NBK terracota panels in a dark tone, stone, glass and steel brise soleil, perforated roofs and translucent sheets. You can easily note traditional concepts from arabic architecture applied in a contemporary way to this building: the filtering of the sun, the use of water, the mass, etc.
Right next to the campus we find the residences for the faculty and students. The idea of a compact mass is mixed with large avenues and canals, along which the winds flow. These have a more traditional architectural style as you can see on the photos (the master plan was done by HOK, but the architecture for this villas was done by another firm).
There is no architectural department at KAUST, but during the visit to the labs we meet Prof. Dr. Helmut Pottmann, director of the Geometric Modeling and Scientific Visualization Research Center, who has been studying geometry in architecture (check his book Architectural Geometry).
He showed us the work he did with Asymptote for the Yas Marina Hotel at the Abu Dhabi F1 circuit, and told us that he works with other practices to bring their structures to reality.
The visit to the campus was very interesting… getting to see a project this big on an extreme weather, built in very short time. During the press conference at the opening, the board of the University announced that it was the first building in Saudi Arabia to get LEED Platinum certification.
This trip allowed us to understand more about the islamic culture, and how it is reflected on this project. It was also very interesting to hear the Saudis opinion about the project, and everyone agreed that the focus on researching renewable energy sources was a big step for a country that holds 24% of the world’s oil reserves, thinking ahead on the future.