JEDDAH: One of the most famous landmarks in the Kingdom’s capital has won a prestigious award for its unique and innovative architectural design.
Designed by Zahra Hadid Architects (ZHA), the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) has received the American Concrete Institute (ACI) award for concrete construction excellence.
The hexagonal prismatic honeycomb structure of the institution has a futuristic feel and resembles a living organism. Walking through the campus grounds, the exterior of the building and hexagonal cell openings of the ceiling provide shelter from the harsh sun, but also soft shadows and shade.
The five different KAPSARC buildings are linked by an enormous design of hexagonal honeycomb units, supporting the energy computer center, the energy knowledge center, a conference center with an exhibition space and an auditorium, a research library and a space for prayer.
The design has solid technical and environmental considerations at its heart, unifying the five elements of the campus into one.
With 30 percent of materials made with recycled content, the crystalline form, angled to protect from sun heat to the south and open onward to the north and west, acts in a way like a growing live cell that responds to the environment it is in. It uses prismatic cells, known as “wind catchers,” to redirect winds from the north through the open space.
The building is made of extremely complex steel, said Saudi architect Mukhtar Al-Shoaibi.
“The contractor working on the job must have gone through so much to install the joints and then apply the sheets over it and now it acts as a monument in the Kingdom,” he told Arab News.
“ZHA projects have always been unique and creative in an unprecedented, nontraditional way. There’s no other structure like it in the entire world,” he added.
The Saudi expert likened Hadid’s work to the Kingdom’s favorite anime, Grendizer. He said a lot of her works reminded him of themes of outer space where she applies concrete “in an unconventional way.”
In this particular work with KAPSARC, he said the design resembled an intricate iron skeleton web.
“We congratulate the Kingdom on this award. Riyadh is a beautiful city with many structures to be celebrated, including King Abdullah Financial City and ZHA’s train station.”
However, what Al-Shoaibi is most looking forward to are the upcoming Saudi talents brimming with creativity and promise.
Saudi architects have also been attracting several awards in the field, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, he said.
“I’m proud to see Saudis accomplish that. There are many more major projects coming up in the Kingdom as well, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll present,” he added.
KAPSARC gained the title of “smartest building” in the Kingdom from the Honeywell Smart Building Awards program. As a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainability, it uses resources to find efficient energy solutions and solve energy challenges and environmental problems.
The ACI awards are dedicated to prestigious and creative projects to create an international space for concrete excellence, innovation and technology.