Architecture

Foster + Partners' library offers a shaded oasis in the UAE

Foster + Partners' library off...
The House of Wisdom began construction in 2018 and was completed in late 2020 – it just recently opened its doors to visitors
The House of Wisdom began construction in 2018 and was completed in late 2020 – it just recently opened its doors to visitors
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The House of Wisdom began construction in 2018 and was completed in late 2020 – it just recently opened its doors to visitors
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The House of Wisdom began construction in 2018 and was completed in late 2020 – it just recently opened its doors to visitors
The House of Wisdom's shading screens ensure that sunlight does not unduly warm the interior
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The House of Wisdom's shading screens ensure that sunlight does not unduly warm the interior
The House of Wisdom's interior includes the main library itself, an exhibition space, reading lounge, children's education spaces, a cafe, and more
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The House of Wisdom's interior includes the main library itself, an exhibition space, reading lounge, children's education spaces, a cafe, and more
The House of Wisdom's interior measures 13,000 sq m (roughly 140,000 sq ft), which is spread over four floors
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The House of Wisdom's interior measures 13,000 sq m (roughly 140,000 sq ft), which is spread over four floors
The House of Wisdom includes a pleasant indoor garden courtyard area
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The House of Wisdom includes a pleasant indoor garden courtyard area
The House of Wisdom's extensive landscaping includes a children's playground with a water feature
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The House of Wisdom's extensive landscaping includes a children's playground with a water feature
The House of Wisdom's glazed exterior is covered with aluminum sun shades, while movable bamboo shades inside offer additional protection from the sun's rays
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The House of Wisdom's glazed exterior is covered with aluminum sun shades, while movable bamboo shades inside offer additional protection from the sun's rays
The House of Wisdom's grounds include a sculpture by British artist Gerry Judah named The Scroll
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The House of Wisdom's grounds include a sculpture by British artist Gerry Judah named The Scroll
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High-profile British architecture firm Foster + Partners has completed a new library in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Designed with the local climate in mind, the glazed building is shaded by a large overhanging roof and screens, and offers respite from the desert landscape with lush gardens, both inside and out.

Named The House of Wisdom, the building is located a short drive outside the capital city of Sharjah, and measures 13,000 sq m (139,931 sq ft) spread over four floors.

The building's large roof brings to mind Foster + Partners' work with Apple, such as its Apple Park Visitors Center. Its 15-m (49-ft) overhang helps protect the interior from the glare of the sun most of the day, and the roof also hides much of the electrical fittings and services inside, leaving an uncluttered floorspace that's free of columns. Extra shading comes from a series of fixed aluminum exterior shades, and there are also some movable bamboo shades inside that can be slid into position when required.

The House of Wisdom's glazed exterior is covered with aluminum sun shades, while movable bamboo shades inside offer additional protection from the sun's rays
The House of Wisdom's glazed exterior is covered with aluminum sun shades, while movable bamboo shades inside offer additional protection from the sun's rays

Most of the building's available floorspace is taken up by the main library area, but there are also children's educational spaces, a cafe, and smaller areas containing exhibition areas, reading lounges, and more. One nice touch is an Espresso Book Machine that's available to print and bind books. Elsewhere lies a central interior courtyard garden that provides additional light, and is planted with lush greenery.

"The House of Wisdom in Sharjah is a forward-looking conception of what a library should be in the 21st century – embracing a digital future while playing a crucial role as a community hub for learning, underpinned by innovation and technology," says Gerard Evended, Head of Studio at Foster + Partners. "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."

The House of Wisdom includes a pleasant indoor garden courtyard area
The House of Wisdom includes a pleasant indoor garden courtyard area

Its landscaping is extensive and includes a playground to the south, which is filled with native species of plants and a large water feature. Nearby is a more formal garden dominated by a new sculpture by British artist Gerry Judah, named the Scroll, that was conceived as a contemporary interpretation of ancient Arabic scrolls. The artwork reaches a height of 36 m (115 ft) and consists of 72 tonnes (80 US tons) of steel, with a 240-tonne (268-ton) concrete foundation.

The House of Wisdom began construction in 2018 and was completed in late 2020. It recently opened its doors to visitors.

Source: Foster + Partners

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