Mossessian Architecture has won an invited competition to design a new museum in Mecca dedicated to the Islamic faith
The London-based practice is working with exhibition specialist Studio Adeline Rispal from Paris on the scheme, which will be built 7km from the Grand Holy Mosque.
At the centre of the new building – officially named the Makkah Museum – will be a ‘helical void’ with a continuous, rising ramp described by the practice as a ’virtual minaret that visitors ascend as they pass through the exhibition galleries’.
The museum will be the first ’cultural institution’ offering an interpretation and reflection of faith to the millions who visit Mecca – the holiest of Muslim cities.
As well as 5,600m² of permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, the building will house an auditorium, educational space, bookshop, roof garden and restaurant.
Makkah Museum - interior designed by Studio Adeline Rispal
The scheme places the exhibition scenography at its core. Studio Adeline Rispal evolved the central concept for the museum form: the core of the building is occupied by a helical void, a virtual minaret that visitors ascend as they pass through the exhibition galleries. Mossessian Architecture has delivered this by devising a continuous ramp system to ascend the void, with a parallel spiral staircase for the descent.
Both circular (like the celestial sphere) and ascending (symbolising the spiritual journey), the central minaret-shaped void calls upon the Muslim community to transcend earthly concerns through their faith – and pursuing the quest for knowledge onwards into infinity. Standing in a dedicated gallery at the base of the spiral, one can gaze up at the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah inscribed on the underside of the cupola formed by the ascending spiral.
As visitors journey through the museum, they learn about the life of the prophet through exhibits and panoramic films installed to either side of the ramp, ultimately arriving at a ‘garden of delight’ at the top of the building. Here there are a series of climatically regulated geometric gardens where small and larger groups of visitors can gather in even the hottest months.
The scheme will use stones sourced from all of the countries where Islam is practised
Appreciating the need to appeal to Muslims from all over the world, the scheme proposes using stones sourced from all of the countries where Islam is practised in the construction of the building’s exterior wall, and Hijaz rock from the local mountains of Mecca for the interior. Inside, the rock is used to create alcoves and plinths, which visitors encounter as they mount the ramp. These house the exhibition displays, which tell the story of the life of the prophet and enrich understanding about Islam.
The brief specified an imaginative use of technology, which is being interpreted in this project not only through the installation of exhibits but also through the immaculate engineering of the building form, offering a unique synthesis between creative faith, heritage and modern technology.
Architecture Mossessian Architecture
Exhibition Architecture Studio Adeline Rispal
Multimedia Design Alain Dupuy
Cultural Heritage Aylin Orbasli
Calligraphy Ali Sarmadi
MEP Engineer Aecom
Landscape Design Aecom
Cost Management Aecom
Civil Engineer Aecom
Lighting Design Aecom
Façade Engineering Aecom
Fire Engineering Aecom
Makkah Museum by Mossessian Architecture