foster + partners' sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture in the UAE

foster + partners' sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture in the UAE

foster + partners has revealed plans for a library and cultural center in sharjah, a united arab emirates city on the arabian gulf. the two-storey building has been designed to offer a sense of clarity and lightness, with a large floating roof cantilevering on all sides of a transparent rectilinear volume. located ten kilometers (six miles) from the city center, the so-called ‘house of wisdom’ will join ‘the scroll’ — a new piece of public art by gerry judah, which is already in place. ‘gerry’s sculpture is a perfect complement to the minimalist geometry of our building,’ says gerard evenden, head of studio, foster + partners.

foster partners sharjah library
image © foster + partners (also main image)



both the foster + partners-designed library and the spiraling sculpture are being developed by the sharjah investment and development authority and celebrate sharjah’s status as UNESCO world book capital 2019. ‘long considered primarily as repositories for books and periodicals, the role of libraries in the life of contemporary communities is set to be re-imagined for the 21st century,’ evenden continues. ‘the house of wisdom conceptualizes the library as a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology.’

foster partners sharjah library
image © foster + partners



a 15-meter-wide overhang shades the building’s façades throughout most of the day, while aluminum screens filter the low sun in the evenings. visitors enter the building from its western edge into a double-height reception hub with a central courtyard that brings light to the interior spaces. the ground floor contains large spaces for exhibitions, a café, a children’s educational space, an archive, and a reading area with facilities such as a machine that prints and binds books on-demand.

foster partners sharjah library
visitors enter the building from its western edge into a double-height reception hub



the structure’s 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 spaces suspended above the central courtyard, which offer both quiet and collaborative areas, exhibition areas, and reading lounges including a prayer room and a women-only area.

foster partners sharjah library
a range of different spaces are found on the building’s ground floor



externally, the landscape is divided into two sections, one of which contains ‘the scroll’ by gerry judah — a contemporary interpretation of the ancient arabic scrolls as a single, spiraling sculpture that loops towards the sky. using a form of geometry called ‘developable surface’, the curved shell was created from rolled steel plates, cut by lasers guided by computer control, welded together and painted with multiple layers to protect the steel from sandstorms and weather erosion.

foster + partners' sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture in the UAE
a large floating roof cantilevers on all sides of the transparent rectilinear volume

foster + partners' sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture in the UAE
image © foster + partners

foster + partners' sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture in the UAE
image © shurooq-sharjah



project info:


architect: foster + partners
name: house of wisdom
function: library and cultural center
location: sharjah, UAE
developer: sharjah investment and development authority (shurooq)

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    503,281 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine