OIC headquarters, competition

competition for the realisation of the OIC headquarters in jeddah, kingdom of saudi arabia
project info-sheet:
project number BAD-project 005
name: OIChq jeddah
location: jeddah, kingdom of saudi arabia
client: the organisation of the islamic conference
content: headquarters (office and conference)
total floor area: app. 35.000 m²
team: anders melsom (BAD-OSL)
damien guiot (BAD-LIL)
kathrine nyhus (BAD-OSL)
lorenzo bini (BAD-MIL)
qaul burgstaller (BAD-INN)
ursula faix (BAD-INN)
consultant: -
timeframe: 2006
status: competition
OIChq jeddah 'RETROASIS':
The Organization of the Islamic Conference Headquarters

1 – Horizontal Monumentality
In our interpretation the new O.I.C. Hedquarters should firstly be a monumental landmark and an unifying structure for the urban landscape of Jeddah as well as for the whole Islamic community. The funding ideas and the programmatic aims of the organisation contribute to the idea of a necessary and powerful organism whitin the actual and future global political scenario.
As architects, we are deeply concerned with the political aspects of such an institution on one hand, and extremely interested in acting upon the urban fabric with a clear, constructive and progressive attitude on the other. Our proposal for this competition is thus the attempt to combine a 'desire for monumentality', which is directly related to the 'institutional identity' of the O.I.C. Headquarters, with a 'need for horizontality', which is the logical strategy to achieve a strong 'urban identity'. These two fundamental aims might appear at first as two 'opposed streams'; the horizontal (open, public, and un-diversifyied) seems to be in contraddiction with the monumental (safe, controlled, and hierarchic). On this problematic (but fruitful) antithesis we have conceived and developed our entry.

2 – An enclosed (head)quarter
The competition area appears vast and undefined, flanked on two sides by wide boulevards it seems to lack a certain density proper of any urban environment. The requested program, stacked on a number of levels as suggested by the competition brief, would have originated, in our opinion, a building too slender and too minute to match the extension of an enormous surrounding area. We also believe the O.I.C.H.Q. should be much more than just one special tower (among many others) set on an articulated, infrastructured and equipped park. Referring to traditional Islamic architecture and re-interpretating the fundamental concept of the 'enclosed garden' we therefore propose a 800 m long continuous wall that metaphorically 'becomes' our building. The wall is strategically opened toward the outside providing access from different directions, it has a 'thickness' that host a number of public facilities and attract visitors, it gives uniform facades on the eastern and southern boulevards and opens through a generous gate toward the Cultural Axis leading to the historical district of Belad. Monumentality is in this way achieved through horizontality. The new boundary/building embodies practical and psychological functions: it becomes a threshold between inside and ouside complying with requested security standards and it represent a border enclosing a very special, defined, institutional public space.

3 – Generative patterns
We have been intrigued by the beauty and the mistery of Arabic patterns which found wide application in textile design, tiles decoration and sometimes even architectural planning. We researched the potential of a repeated generative pattern as a driving element enabling us to actively organise a vast and disomogeneous site as the competition area. The articulated complexity of these patterns (or networks) has become a useful mean to develop a 2 dimensional grid 'on ground' and a 3dimensional structure to contain program. The dynamic repetition of one or more modular element creates an invisible platform that host several different architectural features in a systematic and ordered way.

4 – Office Slab
Differently from most of the conventional urban office buildings, which are organized through the mere vertical superimposion of the same (standard) open plan, the 'Office section' of the new O.I.C.H.Q. is a north-south-oriented 3-storeys slab set on the boundary wall's eastern side. The different office areas are organized around regular patios of different depth, in this way each work environment has natural light and ventilation. The 230 m long building refers to the traditional Islamic madrass and always enables casual encounters between employees along bublic covered roads as well as into open air protected patios while the worker of a conventional skyscraper are usually doomed to remain complete stranger to each others although they work on the same floor. The long open plan, based on a modular grid, can be easily divided according to the always changing nature of office spaces and is a very flexible, economic building for further developments provoked by the growth of the organisation.
The Office section is suspended to provide shade over the eastern sector of the O.I.C.H.Q. park, but is directly connected, through vertical elements to the underground parking garage. The slim rectangular shape of the plan enables to isolate on extremity for the Secretariat general.

5 – Conference Hill
Among the different parts of the 'Conference section' program, which are also located within the 3-storeys slab, the 'Plenary Hall' has a very special character and is the most spectacular one. It consist in a smooth organic element which literally 'grows' from the ground and pierces the biggest patio, which is also the most southern one. The 'Conference Hill' outstand the roof of the 'Office slab' and make itself visible on the outside as an attractive, lush 'vertical landscape'.
The interiors are hollow and the contained, introvert and suggestive space is the future setting for the plenary meetings of the O.I.C. Memeber States, the most important collective and institutional room in the building. The natural metaphor refers to the purest, most peaceful, funding values in human culture, the presence of water recalls clearity, the rocky environment allude to the most ancient roots of Islamic Culture. While the inner space is controlled and selective, the outer skin of the Hill is public and open, it provide a high spot for visitors to overlook the surrounding landscape which stretches outside the wall.

6 – O.I.C.H.Q.G.N.P.A.R.K
The mirrored footprint of the Office Slab on its western side is a colorful stripe of rectangular gardens. Each garden belongs to one of the 57 Countries represented in the O.I.C., each garden's dimension, based on the repetition of a geometrical modul, matches the National Gross National Product, in this way the wealthiest countries have bigger responsabilities in the maintenance of the public space, nevertheless even the smallest gardens can be beautiful and attractive for visitors.
This colorful stripe is a sort of 'vegetal diagram' of the overall O.I.C. Economy, its gardens are constantly changing interfering with each others as each of them can only progress in relation to its neighbour.
The State Members flags are placed above at disequal and temporary distance, a sinuous path enables pedestrians to experience a memorable sequence of colors, parfumes, sounds and atmospheres.

7 – North-West Public Gate
On the North-West corner of the boundary wall, an institutional gate marks the main entrance of the O.I.C.H.Q. A suspended volume, with its characteristic triangular plan is suspended over the wide gap of the wall entrance. With its wider facade towar the park, the 'Public Gate' is the architectural counter element of the 'Conference Hill' and is perceived as a proportioned landmark when accessing the complex from the old city district. The Gate rises from the boundary wall as a continuation of it.
As a consequence the program hosted by the tower is, not differently from the wall, essentially at disposal of the public: information point, reception facilities, office for the community can be featured in the building as well as a restaurant or lounge area overlooking the park. By placing the 'Public Gate' as an entrance and a landmark on the northern corner of the site, the O.I.C.H.Q. achieve a formal entrance for daily visitors and an institutional one for public ceremonies and events.

8 – Palm tree Colonnade Platform

As the visitor enters the O.I.C. Headquarters a vast platform is imediatly discovered as a natural terrace attached to the wall. Neatly planted according to the overall grid, a number of Palm trees stretches over the regular triangular surface tah includes, in its lower level, a covered Public Library directly connected to the central area of the site. This natural colonnade visually measures the space that separate the entrance from the 57 Nations Gardens and the Suspended Office Slab and leaves a wide horizontal surface available for public events. The 'Palm Colonnade' is the official O.I.C. Plaza and could become a world-wide icon among other global public spaces. Other two smaller but more vertical hills complete a suggestive landscape that gently slopes down and is the ideal introduction to the colorful, elegant and spectacular stripe of the 57 Nation Garden, an oversized arabesque that dialogue with the office section slab.

9 – Climatic functioning
The configuration of the building enables a low-tech approach to the climate: interior space benefits by natural ventilation and clever shading. We employ traditional (and wellproven) methods and re-elaborate them in a contemporary architectural language. The Office Slab is a generous covered outdoor spaces and emploies glazed walls only for important offices or special secure areas. Rain and air just pass through this permeable and porous low-rise building which is able to exploit their positive effects, while most of the typical high-rise offices can only be managed with an artificial controlled climate which implies huge amounts of energetic expense and often turns into a fragile system. The harsh saudi weather conditions are thus 'screened away' rather than 'sealed out'. Although the building overall orientation runs North-South, the long East-West oriented facades are occupied by internal 'screened' streets while linear office departments are layed out East-West along the internal patios with optimized North-South climatic performance, without direct sunlight and consequent excessive heating. A traditional system of windchimneys (similar to the Iranian bãdgir or to the Egyptian malgaf ) for natural ventilation is also featured in the staircases working like a shaft that takes in the wind from all four directions and exploit air pressure to distribute it through the building.
The interior facades are treated with ornamental brise solei and sunscreens, some patios are screened with trellises while others remain open air. The horizontal surface of the roof, which is over-exposed to the sun heating, is covered with a light skin of trellises and vegetation to provide shadow.


The name of our project is intended to reflect the fundamental approach of our team in the interpretation and in the development of our design proposal for the O.I.C. Architectural Competition.
Into the imaginary two simple and strong concepts are linked:
RETRO is referred to the purest and deepest identity contained in the Islamic Culture.
OASIS recalls the epic image and the emotional feelings provoked by the Arabic Nature.
The first half of the word represents our will to research, understand and re-visit the qualities of Islamic Architecture as the most beautiful form of Art. The second half express our desire to 'learn' from the past in order to be able to inhabit the present. We strongly believe an Institution as The Organization of the Islamic Conference should be a welcoming, peaceful, magnificent place, where architecture is not used as an self-referred instrument of exhibiting wealth and power, but as a democratic expression of felicity and health.

2006 bad-architects.network / info[at]bad-architects.net
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