The 70,000m2 KAPSARC campus (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre), is a non-profit institution for independent research into policies that contribute to the most effective use of energy to provide social wellbeing across the globe, incorporates five buildings: the Energy Knowledge Centre; the Energy Computer Centre; a Conference Centre with exhibition hall and 300-seat auditorium; a Research Library with archives for 100,000 volumes; and the Musalla, an inspirational place for prayer within the campus.
KAPSARC’s design has solid technical and environmental considerations at its heart, drawing the five elements of the campus into a unified whole. ZHA’s first project to be awarded LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council, the centre is designed in response to the environmental conditions of the Riyadh Plateau to minimise energy and resource consumption.The primary organising strategy of the design is a cellular, partially modular system that integrates different departmental buildings as a single ensemble with interconnecting public spaces.
Hexagonal prismatic honeycomb structures use the least material to create a lattice of cells within a given volume. This structural and organisational principle determined KAPSARC’s composition as an amalgamation of crystalline forms that emerges from the desert landscape, evolving to best respond to the environmental conditions and internal programme requirements. The honeycomb grid is compressed towards its central axis as an extension of the natural wadi that runs to the west.
A research centre is by its very nature a forward-looking institution and KAPSARC’s architecture also looks to the future with a formal composition that can be expanded or adapted without compromising the centre’s visual character. The modular design generates consistent organisational, spatial and structural strategies that drive all elements of the plan. The six sides of the hexagonal cells also offer greater opportunities for increased connectivity when compared to rectangular cells with only four sides.
KAPSARC’s five buildings differ in size and organisation to best suit their use. Each building is divided into its component functions and can be adapted to respond to changes in requirements or working methods. Additional cells can readily be introduced by extending KAPSARC’s honeycomb grid for future expansion of the research campus. The specific arrangement and form of KAPSARC’s buildings contribute to softening the strong light and heat of the Riyadh Plateau.
The buildings of the campus surround a large public courtyard shaded by canopies supported from a forest of crafted steel columns. Presenting a solid, protecting shell to the harsh sunlight from the south, the KAPSARC campus opens to north and west; encouraging prevailing winds from the north to cool the courtyard during temperate months and facilitating connections with any future expansion of the campus to the north, as well as creating connections with the researcher’s residential community to the west.
Privileging the pedestrian, each of the buildings within the campus is entered through this central public courtyard that also serves as a meeting space and link between buildings during temperate seasons. An underground link also connects the main buildings on the campus for use at the hottest times of the year. Specific hexagonal cells strategically located within each building are left open to create a series of sheltered courtyards that bring softly-controlled daylight into the interior.
Orientated for the sun and wind conditions, the crystalline forms of the prismatic architectural cells gain in height towards the south, west, and east to shield internal spaces from direct sunlight, while the courtyards within are oriented to the north and northwest to bring indirect sunlight into the spaces below. ‘Wind-catchers’ integrated within the roof profiles on the southern sides of each courtyard catch the prevailing winds from the north, cooling each courtyard.
KAPSARC’s architecture promotes transparency and encourages an active exchange between researchers and visitors. By strategically off-setting floorplates, spatial layering effects are created throughout the centre to provide views to the floors above and below; offering transparency between floors in public areas designed as collective zones for researchers to meet informally and exchange ideas. Secure areas and rooms requiring privacy are located within areas of each building where floorplates overlap.
KAPSARC has also been named Saudi Arabia’s ‘smartest’ building in the Honeywell Smart Building Awards programme. Based on criteria that include environmental sustainability, safety and productivity, KAPSARC received outstanding scores across all three categories. As a forum of innovation and collective research, KAPSARC’s convention centre recently hosted its first major public conference, with more than 20,000 visitors attending Saudi Design Week 2017. Source by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA).
- Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
- Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
- Architectural Design: Zaha Hadid, Patrik Schumacher
- ZHA Project Director: Lars Teichmann, Charles Walker
- ZHA Design Director: DaeWha Kang
- ZHA Project Site Team: John Simpson (Site Associate), Alejandro Diaz, Anas Younes, Annarita Papeschi, Aritz Moriones, Ayca Vural Cutts, Carlos Parraga-Botero, Javier Rueda, Malgorzata Kowalczyk, Michal Wojtkiewicz, Monika Bilska, Sara Criscenti, Stella Dourtme
- ZHA Project Leaders: Fabian Hecker (Research Center), Michael Powers (Conference Center), Brian Dale / Henning Hansen (Library), Fulvio Wirz (Musalla / IT Center), Elizabeth Bishop (Facades/2d Documentation), Saleem A. Jalil / Maria Rodero (Master Plan), Lisamarie Ambia/Judith Wahle (Interiors), Bozana Komljenovic (2d Documentation), John Randle (Specifications), John Szlachta (3d Documentation Coordinator)
- ZHA Project Team: Adrian Krezlik, Alexander Palacio, Amdad Chowdhury, Amit Gupta, Andres Arias Madrid, Britta Knobel, Camiel Weijenberg, Carine Posner, Claire Cahill, Claudia Glas-Dorner, DaChun Lin, Daniel Fiser, Daniel Toumine, David Doody, David Seeland, Deniz Manisali, Elizabeth Keenan, Evan Erlebacher, Fernanda Mugnaini, Garin O’Aivazian, Giorgio Radojkovic, Inês Fontoura, Jaimie-Lee Haggerty, Jeremy Tymms, Julian Jones, Jwalant Mahadevwala, Lauren Barclay, Lauren Mishkind, Mariagrazia Lanza, Melike Altinisik, Michael Grau, Michael McNamara, Mimi Halova, MohammadAli Mirzaei, Mohammed Reshdan, Muriel Boselli, MyungHo Lee, Nahed Jawad, Natacha Viveiros, Navvab Taylor, Neil Vyas, Nicola McConnell, Pedro Sanchez, Prashanth Sridharan, Roxana Rakhshani, Saahil Parikh, Sara Saleh, Seda Zirek, Shaju Nanukuttan, Shaun Farrell, Sophie Davison, Sophie Le Bienvenu, Stefan Brabetz, Steve Rea, Suryansh Chandra, Talenia Phua Gajardo, Theodor Wender, Yu Du
- Engineering: Arup
- Interior Design: Woods Bagot
- Landscape Design: GROSS.MAX
- Lighting Design: OVI
- Catering and Kitchen Design: Eastern Quay and GWP
- Exhibition Design: Event
- Artwork: International Art Consultants
- Branding and Signage: Elmwood and Bright 3d
- Library Consulting: Tribal
- Cost Consulting and Design Project Management: Davis Langdon
- Area: 70,000 m2
- Year: 2017
- Photographs: Hufton+Crow, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)
Article by Marco Rinaldi