Location – Muscat, Oman
Client – Muscat Municipality
Architects – Snohetta, Norway.
Contractors – Oman Shapoorji Company, Oman
Contractors (curved roof canopy) – Central Industry Group,Netherlands.
Structural Engineers – BuroHappold, Denmark, and their Dubai-based regional office.
Cost Consultant – Driver Consultancy, Oman.
Steel Structure Consultant – Steel Buildings, Oman.
Area – 4 000 sq. Mts.
Timeline – 2009 – 2017
Typology – Market
Muttrah fish market, after its construction in 2017, is serving as a landmark for Muscat. It sits on the corniche on the Gulf of Oman on the western side of Muscat. It is in the heart of the country’s largest harbour, near the 1960’s original fish market. A new fish market was made to accommodate the country’s growing tourism industry which has a long-standing trade history and indigenous fishing traditions. The fish market serves as a structure celebrating the future without leaving its roots behind. The Head of Muscat Municipality invited Snohetta, an Oslo, Norway-based company to design the project. Snohetta sourced all the other consultants who were appointed directly by the clients and their representatives. (Rezai, 2019)
A fish market traditionally operates only from daybreak till late morning.To utilize the space could be beyond these hours, a project brief with rooftop restaurants and cafés was curated. This 4,000 sq. Mts structure houses a fish market with 100 fish cutters and a retail vegetable market. The new building has refrigeration, packaging, and storage spaces along with offices, coffee shops, and a rooftop restaurant.
Snohetta designed a space which provides a panoramic view of the corniche and the harbour. The vast area enables a public gathering place where local fishermen and tourists from around the world can mingle.
To create a symbol for the future, taking the cues from the past. The whimsical features of light and shadow are reflected in the design of a double radial wall marking the spine of the new fish market. (Muttrah Fish Market, 2022)
Snohetta aims to improve the sensation of surroundings, identity, and interaction between physical locations and people. In the case of the fish market, when seen from a distance, the curving wall links to the radiating shape of the corniche and the larger bay area. It connects with the street by revealing the steps from the roof terraces in the corniche’s gaps. The market establishes the bounds of public space, linking the city, the mountains, and the coastline by referencing the previous waterfront and the continuation of the corniche staying true to their design philosophy.
This structure can be labelled as fluid, hyper-realistic and Deconstructivist architecture. The fluid roof in the project designed by Snohetta creates visual boldness that manages to morph nature and architecture into one. The building is curved and organic, with a large roof canopy floating over it.
Muscat has very strict byelaws where building heights are limited to 50 Mts, and colours are restricted to neutral and subdued tones. Yet, Snohetta’s market design expands the architectural horizons and sits comfortably in this context.
The property is practically flat and was partially reclaimed from the corniche at a higher platform keeping it safe from floods. The 150-metre-long and double-storied structure, which faces east-west, takes up around 15% of the whole land plot, leaving the remainder for landscaping, a seaside promenade, and parking facilities. Building evacuation is simple, since the two-story building is perforated around the perimeter, allowing for a quick exit. The site setting does not allow for interaction with local flora and animals. The entire new port concept, along with the Snohetta’s fish market building, has the potential to develop an environment that leads to a micro-ecological civilization. (SUSTAINABLE DESIGN IN MODERN FISH MARKET: A CASE STUDY OF MUTTRAH FISH MARKET, n.d.)
Summers in Muscat are hot and long, while winters are mild. As elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, annual rainfall in Muscat is relatively low (less than 100 Mm) and occurs primarily between December and April. Snohetta conceived a design to address the issues in innovative design.
It is two floors with an overhanging roof canopy that spans the whole structure. The fish and vegetable markets take up the entire bottom floor. Adjacent activities (fish cutting and sale) blend seamlessly inside such zones. The second level is a roof terrace coffee shop, cafes and restaurants with views of the harbour and the adjacent residences. The building’s proportions and the off-white colour of the roof canopy merge the structure into its surroundings while allowing it to stand out – a duality that benefits both the site and the neighbourhood. The entire roof canopy floats over the areas below. It wraps around to articulate and declare the spatial hierarchy as envisioned by Snohetta.
Construction & technology
The entire building is supported by Y-shaped steel columns and is covered by an organically formed steel-framed roof. The overall design evolution by Snohetta has two structural systems that are distinctly different are combined. The first one has reinforced concrete two-story enclosed buildings that house the fish and vegetable markets and the restaurant and café areas. The seismic load effects are taken into account in the structural design. Second, the roof canopy comprises Y-shaped steel columns that support primary steel tubes, which hold secondary and tie beams together. This forms a steel grillage from which aluminium sun-shading lamellae are hung to cool the atmosphere and shelter the sun’s roof terrace and adjoining areas. The entire edifice is built on an improved ground, with over 1,500 stone columns inserted into the reclaimed land to increase the ground’s carrying capacity.
Innovative and inspirational elements
The sinuous flow of Arabic calligraphy inspired the design of the Snohetta’s canopy. It has metal fins that give it a outstanding appearance. Facilities such as chilled tables, air conditioning, and spot chilling are available to aid hygiene. Natural light is managed and tolerated in interiors by active and passive means. Because the building’s longer dimension is oriented east-west, the roof’s highly directed canopy may obscure the western sun. The modest breeze-block façade facing the corniche is expertly perforated to varying degrees to provide regulated natural light penetration over the whole length of the Fish Market. Just a few artificial lights are given to augment natural light and mitigate variances.
Snohetta.com. 2022. Muttrah Fish Market. [online] Available at: <https://snohetta.com/projects/359-muttrah-fish-market> [Accessed 2 August 2022].
Rezai, H. (2019). Muttrah Fish Market. [online] OMA. Available at: https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/media.archnet.org/system/publications/contents/14188/original/DTP106572.pdf?1592226472.
SUSTAINABLE DESIGN IN MODERN FISH MARKET: A CASE STUDY OF MUTTRAH FISH MARKET. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://www.globalscientificjournal.com/researchpaper/SUSTAINABLE_DESIGN_IN_MODERN_FISH_MARKET_A_CASE_STUDY_OF_MUTTRAH_FISH_MARKET.pdf [Accessed 2 Aug. 2022].