The King Fahad national Library should be revered as an excellent contemporary example of urban renewal that the rest of the region should take cue from. The imminent result of an international competition won by the German firm that carried out the renovation and extension, Gerber Architekten.
A respectful intervention in its highly dense, urban context. The library with its tensile, textile facade manages to stand out yet fit in perfectly with its iconic neighbor the Faisaliah Tower. The facade which is the main feature of the building is an excellent play on the traditional mashrabiya window screens, it manages to filter the glaring Arabian sun only allowing the passing light to create a subtle tranquil ambiance on the interior.
The extension of the library is done with a refinement reminiscent of the restoration carried out by Carlo Scarpa at the Castelvecchio Museum. An unprecedented elegance in the Middle East, where the mindset is ,unfortunately, typically to wipe out the history completely and start from scratch. In keeping the existing library and building around it, there is much to say about keeping the original building at the heart of the new structure. An iconic building in its own right, the choice to keep it is a testament to the change in the mentality of the region, where embracing the old is slowly garnering merit.
Gerber Architekten are also the architects designing the new metro station for the Olaya district that the library is in, hopefully continuing this sensitive, sensible architectural streak, revitalizing an area that could have easily had the ill fate of falling into the perils of developer greed.