The House of Wisdom, a library reimagined for the 21st century, is set to open in Sharjah in 2020. The building is designed by one of the world’s leading architecture practices, Foster + Partners, the minds behind The Gherkin in London and Apple Park in California. The architects envisioned the library and cultural centre as “a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology,” according to studio head Gerard Evenden.
As well as thousands of physical and digital books, visitors will find exhibition areas, a café, children’s zones, collaborative and quiet work spaces, a prayer room and a women-only area.
Technology will play an important role: a print-on-demand book station, known as an “Espresso Book Machine”, is able to print, collate and bind a requested title within minutes. At the same time, it will provide a respite from technology, with extensive gardens—half formal and symmetrically arranged, half more wild and densely planted—where visitors can enjoy some solitude.
Lying low in the landscape, the two-storey structure will be recognisable by its cantilevered roof that overhangs the building by a sizeable 15 metres. A striking architectural feature, it will shade the facade for most of the day.
Inside, the space will be light and bright, with a double-height foyer, sculptural staircases leading to a mezza-nine, and near-omnipresent views outside creating a feeling of connection to nature. —Rima Sabina Aouf
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