al khobar, saudi arabia
Overall winner for the 2006 Architectural Review Future Projects Awards and winner of the Masterplanned Communities Category
The client asked us to find an “Islamic architecture with a contemporary style”. Additionally, they wanted to introduce a new model to a real estate market dominated by basic gated compounds and individual villa developments.
The program consists of 188 apartment units ranging from 268 m2 to 480 m2 in 6 general typologies, served by communal amenities: Ground-level Garden flats, affordable simplexes, Maisonette-style duplexes, Luxurious Courtyard and Penthouse Duplexes are distributed into 47 buildings on a 40,000m2 plot of land subdivided into 4 garden blocks.
The project adopts the required “Islamic” identity through subtle re-interpretations of cultural specificities of the urban, architectural, and functional realms.
On the urban level, the project recreates the traditional territorial communities of the Arab and Islamic city, as four semi-open, introverted perimeter blocks each enclosing a lush garden at its heart with seating areas and children playgrounds. The blocks are separated by pedestrian-priority, private-access paved streets, treated as mineral parks. The gardens and “street courtyards” are in turn linked through a promenade/network of secondary rectangular piazzas that overlap transversely with the main spaces and create urban gateways spatially.
The permutation rules that regulate the composition are based on a simple yet sophisticated modular system of apartment units. Each unit typology is designed in a way to allow its floor plan to be flipped, rotated, or replaced without affecting the infrastructural requirements: four basic apartment types thus compose each building, but their permutability allows the creation of an almost infinite number of different buildings from a finite genetic pool.
Each flat has a separate Family and Guest entrance and is composed of internal and external spaces organized in a diagram that permits the flat privacy zones to be modulated according to the presence or absence of non-family members in the house.
The project succeeds in creating a model for a sustainable, socio-culturally, climatically and historically contextual development, exportable and adaptable to many other sites across the Islamic gulf. It sets an example for other commercial and even public projects to follow.
architecture & urban planning: nabil gholam architects
3D images: nabil gholam architects