Gensler unveils massive expansion plans for southern Mecca
Gensler Architects has released images of its proposed 1km² Darb Al-Khalil redevelopment in southern Mecca
The practice has drawn up plans to develop the historic southern approach to Mecca, Islam’s Holiest city, on a site known as Darb Al-Khalil.
Currently the redevelopment plans stretch over a 1km² built area, half of which is designated for hotels. The remaining half will house furnished apartments, shops, indoor praying areas and government facilities.
The project will allow more pilgrims to visit the Hajj site and follows other plans previously backed by King Abdullah Ben Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia.
The new plans intend to integrate the holy site into the city and the open spaces in Al-Haram
Back in 2008 the AJ revealed that both Zaha Hadid and Foster + Partners had been approached to re-design the centre of Mecca and asked to look at how to ‘re-envisage’ the Haram mosque and to develop a range of alternatives for Mecca’s northern expansion.
The new plans intend to integrate the holy site into the city and the open spaces in Al-Haram more thoroughly ‘without interrupting vehicular traffic’.
Serious consideration has been given to the nature of public space
Conceptually the development aims ‘to provide order’ to a site, which has evolved organically over time. It is hoped that the multi-zoned existing development will be enhanced by the new plans and become more accessible to pedestrians, as well as providing views to Al-Haram from adjoining neighbourhoods.
The practice claims that serious consideration has been given to the nature of public space and how to channel people more efficiently through the city, whose yearly Hajj pilgrimage often results in thousands of injuries sustained from crowd crushing. The individual blocks are aligned north to respect the established direction of prayer and to capture views of the holy mosque.
The architects claim this orientation will also ‘minimise solar gains and decreasing the need for air-conditioned environments’.
Amended images were added to this story on 26.11.09