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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

Readers' comments (8)

  • Hmm.

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  • Further indication as to where all of the money is...

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  • Well we know where all the oil money is being spent, after all there are an awful lot of hungary princes out there who need feeding, what better way than building load of hotels and then rip off the pilgrims all year round.
    Even the pagan arabs would be ashamed at this behaviour, never mind the pethetic designs.
    For Gensler, what architectural spiritual/heritage style was used in their urban design. The comment of "minimise solar gains and decreasing the need for air-conditioned environments" is a joke.
    It was the Urban organic features that made Makkah unique with its hidden courtyards and roshan balconies.
    welcome to Makkah commercial disney land.

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  • This is the attack of the mediocre western office architecture on the most holy. Liverpool beware!
    Where is Frei Otto when you need him?

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  • [...]
    As in any of the many redevelopment proposals around the Al Haram, they are driven by the desire to achieve extremely high densities in order to provide accommodation to the ever increasing number of pilgrims, at the expense of impacting the urban grain of Makkah. Romantic references to courtyards and roshan balconies are a thing of the past, and not achievable under current economic pressures either in Makkah or elsewhere in the area.

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    why does everyone sign anom?

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  • could be anywhere really ... moscow, chicago , singapore , some city in central china , dubai or johannesberg etc. One giant wasted opportunity.

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  • Resit the year, Gensler.

    and - why does everyone sign as "anon"? Maybe because we are not firms, trying to plug ourselves shamelessly by posting comments on the AJ sites, so it doesn't matter who we claim to be?

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