Beyond the Claddings of King Fahad National Library


It was a random winter day in 2012 when my optical organs got magnetized by those claddings that surround the King Fahad National Library while cruising over King Fahad Road in Olaya District. I’ve always been fascinated by the unique architectural design of the building. There wasn’t a time that I didn’t take a gander at this one-of-a-kind piece of architecture whenever I pass by it.

I’ve also been planning to photograph the building but it was only in 2018 that the plan materialized, by chance on a random winter day also.

I was on my home from a badminton tournament where the team got knocked out on the first match. It was still morning time at about 10-ish when I was driving along King Fahad Road from King Abdulaziz Road. I was automatically drawn to the library’s “wings” upon approaching the area where it stands. I decided to park somewhere in the area for photography purposes out of the blue.

Glad it was a Friday! There was just me sauntering around. No visible guards even so I snapped photos here and there until I got sated.

I tried recreating that photo of the library and Al Faisaliah Tower used on SABB website and mobile application logo. I didn’t try hard to get a very good one though. I thought that kind of view is now overused. Instead, I busied myself with finding another angle where the main subject could still be highlighted but not overshadowed by the tower. Promoting wonders from the mundane is big deal for me. The tower is just too mainstream.

The featured photo I came up with proves that the library can stand alone, grand and impressive, with the very claddings in symmetry and its cuboidal shape. This is what makes it a standout among the modern buildings and skyscrapers not just in Olaya District but the whole city and the Kingdom.

The modern dossier says  that those prominent claddings are made up of rhomboid textile awnings. My layman’s optical organs always get intrigued by its revealing and concealing vibe. Prior to drafting this post, I thought the claddings were only meant for sunshade.

I then read from the library’s website that those claddings and the filigree steel cable structure were installed in a literally intricate and scientifically complex way that they will allow maximum light penetration and transparency via a three-dimensional light refraction. This is contrary to what is obviously seen, which is them serving as mere covers by day and spark different colors of light at night.

The square shape of the building complements the existing park’s green space behind it, forming an urban unit that’s worth visiting especially for photography. The library, with all its books and appurtenances of wealth and information, is the centre of knowledge in the Kingdom. Seeking a deeper knowledge about Saudi Arabia is a given.

The building’s other impressive features, apart from visual aesthetics, are its sustainable layered ventilation and floor cooling mechanism. We owe this from Gerber Architekten—the firm behind the building’s design renovation and completion in November 2013.

The library is an absolute treasure of the Kingdom when it was established in 1990; one of the most important cultural and architectural masterpieces in the capital’s cityscape to date; and, undoubtedly, the all-time most unique building in town.

The King Fahad National Library is open from Sunday through Thursday at 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM. A visit inside is by booking an appointment on the website. Click here for the link to that.

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