While creating a cinematic background to normal life with their modern yet sleek and tech design, the House of Wisdom, Library and Cultural Center located in Sharjah– U.A.E., is a marvelous example of one of the many progressive projects of High tech architecture incorporated with Sustainable Design by Foster + Partners. Reimagining the concept of libraries in the current and contemporary era, The House of Wisdom sets boundaries in design, incorporating innovation and technology as a social platform for learning. Cantilevering from all sides by a slender and distinctive roof, the two-storey building designed by Foster + Partners creates a catalyst that attracts the cultural quarter in the new city district.
Location: Sharjah, U.A.E.
Collaborating Architect: Shurooq, Aurecon
Structural Engineer: Aurecon
Lighting Engineer: Delta
Additional Consultant: McLaren
Landscape Architect: Cracknell
Area: 40,386 m²
Design Philosophy and Concept | House of Wisdom
“The straight, minimalist lines of the building complement the dunes of the desert, set within a lush landscape. The House of Wisdom is set to be an oasis for the local community, led by research and innovation, at the heart of a new cultural district.” said Gerard Evenden, head of studio at Foster + Partners.
Ten kilometers from the city center, this two-story building embodies clarity and lightness, with a large floating roof cantilevering a linear volume that is transparent on all sides. Set amidst a newly developing area, the site and the structure enhance the cultural significance of the surrounding district enabling it to create a centric hub for the future communities. Throughout the building, the emphasis is on creating and maintaining connections with the outside, overlooking the gardens that surround the building. The column free plan provided by the large overhanged roof is an example of project ideas done by Foster + Partners such as Apple Stores. With its transparent rectilinear built form and large landscaped gardens on either side, the building intends to merge the out and in forming a continuous flow of spaces and visual connection.
The site design is inspired from Islamic Architecture, by the symmetrical arrangement and use of axial organization. The building mass is encompassed by large landscaped area on either side with the art piece at its extreme. Inside the structure, the floating roof is supported by four cores at each corner of the building, which also contain all the back of house and service spaces, creating a large column free floor slab. The two cores closest to the entrance have large sculptural staircases that lead the users to the mezzanine.
From the west end of the building, visitors enter the double-height reception hub consisting of an open central courtyard that allows natural light in the interior spaces of the building. A pleasant outdoor setting for social gatherings and quiet retreats is created by this densely planted open green space which mimics the canopies that are cultivated in the Al Ain Oasis. Foster + Partners known to have use the context to create high tech yet sustainable buildings have incorporated innovative technology in this building design. On the ground floor, there is a large exhibition area, a café adjacent to an educational area for children, an archive and reading area, and facilities such as an Espresso Book Machine to print and bind books on demand. The upper level contains a series of pod spaces floating above the central courtyard, offering quiet and collaborative spaces, exhibition areas and reading lounges, including prayer rooms and a women’s only area.
Innovative and Sustainable Technology
The building users are able to move the low-level bamboo screens for privacy or to control harsh glares. The bamboo screen is left open when not in use to maintain a visual connection with the groomed garden. The overhang that spans 15-metre-wide provides shade to the façades during the daytime, whereas the low evening sunlight is filtered by the fixed aluminum screens of varying densities. The cladding of the glassed building adds a homely contextual touch from the desert. It thus helps in regulating the temperature of the building that would otherwise be high considering the exposure to daylight in a large open area.
Landscape | House of Wisdom
Foster + Partners has designed the landscape and has divided it into two sections. To the south with some native species and water features are the Children’s Playground and the knowledge gardens which is made up of geometrically arranged landscape in a formal manner, with groups of gardens and shaded walkways.
While to the north is a new public art by British sculptor Gerry Judah. It features his artwork, The Scroll, which is a modern interpretation of the ancient Arabic scroll as a single spiral carving spiraling towards the sky. The artwork is made from rolled steel plated that are laser-cut and is treated to avoid erosion from sandstorms. The internal Courtyard also serves as a breathing space consisting of lush greenery and provides cool calm areas for quiet and contemplation.
- ArchDaily (2021). House of Wisdom Library and Cultural Center / Foster + Partners. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/958407/house-of-wisdom-library-and-cultural-center-foster-plus-partners [Accessed 14 October 2022].
- Fosterandpartners.com. (2021). House of Wisdom | Foster + Partners. [online] Available at: https://www.fosterandpartners.com/projects/house-of-wisdom [Accessed 14 October 2022].
- Visitsharjah.com. (2022). House of Wisdom – Visit Sharjah. [online] Available at: https://www.visitsharjah.com/en/activities/culture/house-of-wisdom/ [Accessed 13 October 2022].
- Crook, L., (2022). Foster + Partners crowns The House of Wisdom with cantilevered roof. [online] Dezeen. Available at https://www.dezeen.com/2021/03/11/foster-partners-the-house-of-wisdom-sharjah-library/ [Accessed 14 October 2022].