The new Ministry of Environment Water and Agriculture (MEWA) complex embraces the past as a key to the future. The design demonstrates that the rich Islamic history and traditions can pave the way for a contemporary Saudi building model for the future. Public streets and courtyards have been the lifeblood of middle eastern culture, history and tradition. Arab traditions play an important role in Saudi life.
The proposed design embraces its historical role and its Bedouin traditions. The building as an object is important, but it is the space and experience of being there that will create transformative memories and uplift the soul of the Saudi population. The organization of the space is intended to embrace Saudi culture but also transform the way people live, play and work – continuing age-old traditions such as generosity and hospitality, that have evolved over the millennia and are highly regarded.
The design of the new MEWA complex strives for a greater collective enlightenment. While the new complex articulates the individual buildings as part of a collective whole, each of the individual ministries will have its own unique identities derived from a series of courtyards, public space and an arrival sequence that express the values and important role that each of the ministries contribute to the Saudi Kingdom.
Ministry of General Services and Environment– The Grand Plaza
Ministry of Water Desalination- garden room name
Ministry of National Water – garden room name
Ministry of Agriculture – garden room name
Ministry of Water Partnership – garden room name
Ministry of Environment – garden room name
Site Access and Circulation
The site has multiple points of egress to accommodate the nearly 5000 people that will arrive and depart daily. Parking is distributed lengthwise across the entire site connecting to the internal public pedestrian street. There are a total of five vehicular access points on the site, three on the north side accessed from a new road, two from the south and one on the west side. The distribution of parking across the long length of the site is connected by a pedestrian only main street or “Viale” that serves as the spine connecting all of the Ministry buildings and courtyards.
This arrangement also easily accommodates the use of bicycles, electric carts and other more sustainable forms of transit on the site. The formal main entry of the Ministry complex is on the southside at the Grand Plaza. The grand plaza is surrounded on the ground level by the museum, shop, small retail and other public amenities. It is the central space of the complex and is linked to the other ministries via the main street “Viale”. There are also four drop off points distributed around the site that provide easy access to each of the individual Ministry buildings. A 2100-space structured parking garage is located to the west as a separate independent structure.
Besides convenient site access, it also serves two important purposes. First, it is located on the west of the property to shield the complex from the harshest western sun exposure and secondly, because it is an independent structure, if necessary, it can be tendered as an extremely cost-efficient stand-alone structure, saving valuable resources for other ministry buildings and public amenities.
In addition to the 600 on grade parking spots located below the parking structure, on the east end of the site is an additional 1.5 level of covered on grade parking located directly under the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Partnership.
In the center of the site there are 750 subterranean parking spaces located one level below grade, directly under each of the Ministry buildings that will provide direct access to each individual building for VIP’s, Ministry officials and other important guests. The subterranean parking level also includes courtyards with opening to above and circulation that connects the below grade parking directly to the main pedestrian street and courtyards of each ministry building. This facilitates easy pedestrian access, natural light to below grade to the parking areas where the earth cool air is circulated to the public space above providing a more temperate climate throughout the Ministry complex.
The Viale (Main Street)
Historically, the Islamic street was the most important artery of the city and was often referred to as the Qasaba (or Qasabah). It constituted the main axis of the city’s economic zones where its souqs (markets) were concentrated. As far back as their 7th century origins, the streets in Islamic cities were the heart and soul of life.
Like historical precedents, the Viale or central pedestrian “Main Street” of the MEWA complex connects and ties all buildings and courtyards together, fusing them into a walkable vibrant neighborhood that follow similar organizational patterns and strategies of historic cities such as Riyadh, Dubai and Medina.
Protected from the sun by the super roof, the “Viale” of MEWA will be lined with shops, public amenities including provisions for dimensions of comfort, safety and ease of mobility for pedestrians. Like ancient Islamic cities, it will be a vibrant place where Saudi people can gather, meet, interact and exchange ideas both day and night, attracting people from adjacent and more distant locations. While the Viale will be pedestrian only it will also act as a functional fire lane and allow small electric carts and other forms of transit to travel its length.
Courtyards and Streets
Conceived as a tapestry of spaces and landscapes offering connections through shaded outdoor rooms, the “Viale” (walk street) and garden courts tie together the entire complex of buildings. Elevated gardens ensure that pedestrians always have access to outdoor space and views. These gardens are designed as demonstration spaces with shaded edible gardens and other outdoor spaces. Shade provided by the roof canopy with the addition of trees, ornamental planting and cross ventilation will provide a comfortable exterior climate for many parts of the year.
At the ground level which will be lined with shops and other public amenities, the courts and walk street connect to the gardens below grade at the subterranean parking level where vertical circulation connects the open spaces above. Furthermore, the opening to below provides natural light, ventilation and circulation of cool earthen air. Gardens and terraces above the General Services building create an indoor/outdoor connection throughout the project connecting to the Ministries of National Water, Agriculture, Environment and Desalination.
High Performance Sustainable Design
The new MEWA complex integrates extensive energy performance as integral with the design process. To do this, the buildings are shaped to optimize passive energy strategies. Floor plates are shaped to capitalize on daylight and natural ventilation using the cool earth temperature. Overall, 92 percent of all regularly occupied spaces are daylight and all office spaces have the ability to intake 100 percent outside ventilation air delivered via an underfloor distribution system that is decoupled from the space conditioning system. Thermal comfort is addressed through thermal mass, radiant slabs, night purging, and natural ventilation.
An on-site photovoltaic system that is split into two systems—one on the roof, and one over the parking structure provides abundant shade, reducing the energy loads by nearly 50%. Other key design strategies include: Optimal orientation and office space layout, fully daylit office wings with high-performance electrical lighting, continuous insulation precast wall panels with thermal mass, operable windows for natural ventilation, outdoor air precooling thru an underground labyrinth thermal storage, nighttime purging trapping cool air inside and aggressive plug load control management. Structural columns for the super roof double as shafts to circulate and move the cooler earthen air through the building via natural convection.
The Super Roof
A homage to cultural vernacular found on mosques and mashrabiya in Riyadh, the large roof is multi-valent in meaning and function. First and foremost, it provides shade to both people and buildings. The shade provides thermal comfort for people and reduces the energy load of the buildings. On top of the roof are solar panels that are anticipated to provide more than 50% of the MEWA complex energy needs. In addition to providing thermal comfort, shade and energy efficiency the underside of the super roof is intended to be clad with lightweight composite metal panels layered in patterns that recall traditional Arabic patterns.
The canopy will also house programmable LED lighting on the underside that can be programmed in many configurations from simple lighting to creating moving images, broadcasting shows or messages. This can be programmed as simple lighting or as a spectacle, becoming a nighttime beacon as people move between the airport and the city of Riyadh. The roof is designed for performance and its aesthetic benefits. It is integral to the design and not a simple “add on”. Source and images Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa.