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London architect to build Islamic faith museum in Mecca
DeZeen Magazine - 15/1/2016
London-based Mossessian Architecture has won a competition to design the
Makkah Museum, a new building dedicated to the Islamic faith in Mecca,
Saudi Arabia (+ movie).
The Makkah Museum will occupy a site seven kilometres from the Grand
Mosque, which houses the Kaaba ` the most sacred location in the world for
The building will include 5,600 square metres of gallery space to host
exhibitions related to the international practice and history of Islam and
the life of Muhammad.
It will also contain a reception area, an 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 teamed up with Paris exhibition architects Studio Adeline Rispal
to enter the invited competition for the museum project. The duo were
announced as the winners this week.
Rispal designed a central void inside the structure to act as a "virtual
minaret" that visitors ascend as they move through the exhibitions.
"Mossessian Architecture has delivered this by devising a continuous ramp
system to ascend the void, with a parallel spiral staircase for the
descent," explained the firm.
"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."
Exhibits and panoramic film displays will occupy either side of the ramp
travelling up through the space.
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.
The underside of the spiralling stairs leading back down will be inscribed
with the 99 Names of Allah, the names of god in Islam, which will be
viewable from a dedicated gallery space at the bottom.
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 Hoxton, east 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.
The firm's UK projects include mixed use towers in London's Paddington
Basin and offices in King's Cross.
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam, and is believed to have been the
birthplace of the prophet Muhammad. Non-Mulsims are banned from entering
the city. Its central mosque is the focal point of the annual mass hajj
A number of heritage campaigners have expressed concern about the city's
development in recent years, suggesting that historic buildings were being
demolished indiscriminately to build accommodation and amenities for the
millions of pilgrims who visit Mecca.
The Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca was the second-tallest building in
the world until the completion of Gensler's Shanghai Tower earlier this
Mecca's closest airport is in Jeddah, the country's second biggest city,
which has a dedicated hajj terminal. UK architecture firm Foster + Partners
is designing an £8 billion transport system for Jeddah, with new metro,
ferry, bus, and cycle terminals.
Jeddah is also set to become home to the world's tallest building ` the
Kingdom Tower currently under construction is expected to have a height of
1,000 metres.
Project credits:
Architecture: Mossessian Architecture
Exhibition architecture: Studio Adeline Rispal
Multimedia design: Alain Dupuy
Cultural heritage: Aylin Orbasli
Calligraphy: Ali Sarmadi
Landscape design, Structure, MEP engineer, civil engineer, lighting
design, facade engineering, fire engineering and transportation: Aecom