Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid have been lined up to take on one of the most high-profile projects on earth – the redevelopment of Mecca

The Holy Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia photographed in October, 2008
The Holy Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia photographed in October, 2008

According to sources, the scheme for Islam's holiest city could create a huge new structure around the central Haram mosque that will eventually be capable of holding three million people, making it the 'highest occupancy' building in the world. 

The top-secret plans are being backed by King Abdullah ben Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia who has asked a hand-picked collection of starchitects to 'establish a new architectural vision' for the 356,800m2 mosque complex.

The AJ believes that the project is likely to be phased, with phase one transforming the mosque from having an official capacity of 900,000 to 1.5 million. This will then go up to three million with the completion of several phases over the following five to 10 years.

It is understood the proposals have been split into two 'tracks', with Foster + Partners earmarked to look at a range of alternatives for the northern expansion of the Haram mosque. Ten other practices are also believed to have been approached to draw up feasibility studies for the extension program, including Atkins.

Meanwhile Hadid has been given the prize task of coming up with ideas for the Haram mosque itself as well as 'revisiting the whole area of the central district'. Another six other 'world renown' architects have also been linked with the job.

British-based engineers Adams Kara Taylor and Faber Maunsell are also in the frame for the multi-billion pound project.

A source close to project told the AJ: 'This study is not meant to be a competition… the main objective of the design studies is to enrich our discourse on how we should address the future architecture of the Haram and its growth.

'These design exercises in addition to other investigations will be subject to an exhibition to his Majesty… by the end of the month.'

Every year, more than three million people make a pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca, known as the Hajj.

Author: Richard Waite.

On 14-Dec-08, at 3:58 PM, Architexturez. wrote:

By the end of this decade Makkah will rise to a level that will easily
accommodate the ever growing number of Muslims worldwide. Like other
planned tourism infrastructure projects throughout Saudi Arabia, the
holy city will become much more than a venue to perform Haj. It is, as
it always has been, the guiding beacon for all Muslims. But now it
will be a holy city with modern amenities.

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