Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has invited a team of celebrity architects to take a look at Mecca and design new buildings for the sacred religious spot. One of the new buildings would be able to hold 3 million faithful in a new mosque. The King intends to invest $22 billion on remaking the holy land, but his choice of non-muslim architects is arousing a bit of displeasure from the Muslim faithful.
Norman Foster, designer of the Hearst Tower, and Zaha Hadid, two of the architects the King reportedly tapped for the project, can’t even enter Mecca, so their critics argue it’s hard to imagine them designing a mosque that would represent the people. While it’s hard for us to picture an older historic holy land being torn up to look like a modern architectural miracle, apparantly it’s been under way for some time:
TimesOnline: A report by the Saudi British Bank, one of the biggest lenders in the kingdom, estimated this year that £15 billion ($22 billion) would be invested by foreign and Saudi companies in construction and infrastructure in Mecca by 2012. Homes and hills are to be replaced by about 130 skyscrapers, including the Abraj al-Bait Towers, which is to be one of the biggest buildings in the world. The seven towers will include a 2,000-room hotel, a convention centre big enough for 1,500 people, heliports and a four-storey shopping mall.
At the centre of the development will be the redesign of the mosque and its surrounding area. The King is understood to have recruited 18 leading architects, engineers and construction companies to “establish a new architectural vision” for the 356,800sq m mosque complex.
What would a new Mecca look like? Below we’ve put together a slide show of some of Foster’s buildings and some pics of Mecca for a contrast of how things might change.
(Hat Tip on the story: Luxist)
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