The Oman Cultural Complex is being developed on a 40ha site at Airport Heights in the capital city of Muscat, Oman. It will house a variety of cultural institutions of the country, including the National Documents and Archives Authority, the National Theatre, the National Library, the Children’s Library, the Literary Forum, and the Youth Art Club.
The complex is being developed by Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture, while the French architecture practice AS. Architecture-Studio is the designer.
Comprising 15 independent buildings, the cultural centre and library project is scheduled for completion in 2016. It will be the first of its kind in the Middle East, housing six different cultural institutions in a single location.
The National Documents and Archives Authority will be accommodated in a 15,300m² four-storey building within the complex. The archives building is designed to protect documents from fire, robbery and natural decay. It will also house a workshop for the restoration of manuscripts and documents. It will further provide spaces for public use and offices for administration, documentation and technical affairs.
A contemporarily equipped National Theatre will be built over 12,800m² accommodating more than 1,000 spectators.
The National Library will be housed in the biggest building of the complex. The building, capable of holding five million volumes, will cover an area of approximately 22,900m².
Apart from providing dedicated rooms for study and reading as well as rooms for periodicals, maps and photographs, the library building will feature halls for the exhibition of books, one lecture hall, and another hall dedicated to information technology. The library will also have special facilities for people with disabilities.
The main library building will also house the Children’s Library containing books for children of all ages, reading rooms, education halls and audiovisual equipment and game areas.
The cultural complex will also have a dedicated building for the Literary Forum, which will consist of lecture halls, a special library, reading and computer rooms, as well as administrative offices.
The Art Institute, also known as the Youth Art Club, within the complex will consist of two halls for art galleries, along with rooms for workshops and trainings. In addition, it will have special facilities for the restoration and maintenance of artworks and areas for displaying photographs and fine art galleries.
Besides these major cultural establishments, the complex will feature facilities such as cafes and parks.
A perforated 40,000m² canopy covering all buildings of the complex is the most important design element of the Oman cultural complex. The roof is wavy in structure as it bends according to the heights of the buildings underneath. The canopy’s height varies between 13m at the edge and 35m where it is bent toward the western side where the National Theatre is located.
The canopy of the cultural complex is designed with reference to musharabieh architecture design for latticed window or roof. The canopy will be made of concrete shells and glass-fibre reinforced concrete (GRC) panels.
The perforated canopy is supported by a column grid measuring 5m x 5m and made of steel beams. The beams will be contorted or straight depending on the location. To keep the canopy braced and in position, the frame will be covered and sealed with a complex steel container and concrete keeping skylights at regular intervals for sunlight. The bracing will be under the canopy and will cause a difference in horizontal rigidity between the frame and the structure beneath.
The large roof of the cultural complex is supported by up to 25m high and 30cm diameter slender poles.
The cultural complex is situated between the sea and the mountains next to the main gateway of Muscat. The complex will have a garden consisting of 1,100 palm trees, 750 fruit trees and 32,500 smaller trees and shrubs, which will give it an oasis-like view when viewed from distance. The gardens will be covered in trickle crosses, another reference to Omani design of falajs (underground water systems for irrigation).
A water body, centrally located within the complex and lit by natural light, will form a distinct focal point. Water burst jets on both sides of the water body will cool the central plaza area of the complex. Five other patio water gardens will be developed for public use, and an avenue formed between two water cascades lead the public to the northern entrance of the cultural complex.
UK-based consultancy firm Mace was appointed as the project and cost manager for the cultural complex project in July 2014.
SETEC Bâtiment is the consultant engineer for the project. Gulf Engineering Consultancy is the co-architect of the project, while the main architect is AS. Architecture-Studio.
AVA Systems provides acoustics services and Eco-Cités provides the environmental engineering services for the project. JML Consultants is the designer of the water features.
Theatre Projects provides the theatre planning, concept design, theatre equipment design and specification, as well as stage engineering for the National Theatre building Oman Cultural Complex.
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