Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo has proposed a complex in Madinah that is inspired by Arabic calligraphy and the Qur’an.
The Noble Qur’an Oasis competition was an architectural competition to design a complex in the Madinah region of Saudi Arabia. The designs entered by Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo envisaged a series of interconnected buildings that, when viewed from a bird’s eye view, makes up an abstract interpretation of Arabic calligraphy.
Mecanoo reinterpreted the formal calligraphy of Arabic into interlocking, fluid buildings that create a plethora of public and private spaces. As well as being inspired by calligraphy, the design took inspiration from the Qur’an – the holy book of Islam after which the center is named. The proposal states that the following passage was Mecanoo’s starting point:
He cast firmly embedded mountains on the earth so it would not move under you, and rivers and pathways so that hopefully you would be guided.
Mountains are important symbols through the writings of Islam and mentioned often in the Qur’an. Indeed, the holy book states Muhammed received his first revelation within a mountain cave. Mecanoo sought to reference this idea of a mountainous range when visitors first come upon the complex with the undulating, high walls in front of them. They then enter the complex and it ‘reveals itself as a vessel for the knowledge of the Qur’an’ according to the proposal.
The design also considered the unique landscape within which the Noble Qur’an Center would be situated. Madinah is a northwestern region that is close to the ocean and lies in a fertile oasis. The loops of the buildings provide isolated outdoor spaces throughout the complex, that are small to avoid too much penetration from the powerful desert sun. The buildings following the learning of traditional Arab buildings, which are often built in clusters to provide protection from the heat and harsh elements.
While the Mecanoo proposal did not win out, the designs are an example of how traditional inspirations can create novel solutions. Not only was it envisaged as a grand complex, but when viewed from a above, a poetic sculpture that harmonizes outdoor and indoor spaces.