This is the KAFD Grand Mosque located at the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Designed by the Riyadh-based architecture and engineering firm Omrania and Associates, the 6,103-sq.m structure functions as a public space and, when needed, outdoor prayer area. Inside the structure there is a large hall with a mezzanine and the column-free space can accommodate 1,500 prayer spaces over two levels. The design of the mosque is unique and do you know what inspired this design?
According to the architects of this mosque, a major challenge was to develop the geometry in such a way as to support a column free internal environment. All of the loads are transferred through the structural skin, and the skin supports a flying mezzanine by means of hanging supports. The specific geometries of the building, however, are based on traditional Islamic patterns and provide integrated sun shading as well as a sculptural articulation that is consistent with the design principles of the KAFD master plan developed by Henning Larsen.
Every creative person derives his inspiration from his surroundings and the architects are no exception to this general rule. In case of KAFD mosque too the architects derived their design inspiration from the surroundings – the most common thing found on desert in Saudi (of course, other than sand), that is, a naturally-occurring crystalline object commonly known as desert rose. The crystalline intersecting plates of a desert rose is not just the inspiration but also the basis for the unique geometry of the mosque.
“Internally the dynamic movement is reflected in an exciting faceted lining which stays true to the external form. This delicate yet powerful form represents our visualized interpretation of a crystal cavern in reference to the desert rose,” says the architect. The interior volume of the mosque rises to 16m and is brought to life by filtered light through crystalline window slots of varied composition. Triangular slotted windows on the vertical sides of the mosque roof structure illuminate the ceiling and create the sense of flotation and lightness to the planes of the ceiling. This is further complemented with shard like features such as the triangulated colored glass muqarnas, an abstraction of a traditional decorative corbel, that is used ubiquitously in traditional Islamic architecture. Other unique features include the triangulated side windows which contain multi-layered abstracted Arabic scripts (an abstraction of one of the Islamic hadiths) to filter light into the main hall during the day and to provide a glowing Islamic pattern to the wadi’s of KAFD at night. Triangulated ‘floating’ ceiling sound and light baffles hover above the devoted adding to the ‘lightness’ and spirituality of the space.
The design has won the International Architecture Award 2020.