House of Wisdom

Foster + Partners

Completed in December 2020, the House of Wisdom conceptualises the library as a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology. The building creates a new publishing and research-based institution that seeks to be the catalyst for a new cultural quarter in the city.

The two-storey building embodies a sense of clarity and lightness, with a large floating roof cantilevering on all sides of a transparent rectilinear volume. The 15-metre-wide overhang shades the fa├žades throughout most of the day, while fixed aluminium screens with differing densities filter the low sun in the evenings. Movable bamboo screens at low level are deployed by the building users, to provide privacy or to control glare. When not in use the bamboo screens are left open, preserving the visual connections with the landscaped gardens.

The floating roof is supported by four cores that also contain all the back-of-house and service spaces, creating a large column-free floorplate. The two cores closest to the entrance contain large sculptural staircases that guide people up to the mezzanine floor. The upper floor hosts a series of pod spaces suspended above the central courtyard, which offer both quiet and collaborative spaces, exhibition areas and reading lounges including a prayer room and a women-only area. Throughout the building, there is an emphasis on establishing and retaining a connection with the outside, looking onto the gardens surrounding the building.