Client: Effat University
Location: Jeddah, KSA
Size: 100,000sf
Program: Administrative Departmental Offices, Student Affairs/Registrar, Learning Laboratories, Conference/Seminar Rooms, Public Assembly, University Governance Suites
Cost: $13,000,000
Status: In construction

RAFT Project Team: Christian Kotzamanis, Laura Grieser, Cory Zwerlein, Charleen Chae, Evita Fanou

Image credit: © RAFT Architects


Based on the University’s founding traditions of IQRA – the fundamental idea that reading and gathering are at the root of knowledge and prosperity, the new Effat University Student Affairs and Governance Building is organized around a 5-story covered atrium – a new ‘Hall of IQRA’ – enveloped by open lounges and outdoor gardens on all four floors. Filled with seating, reading nooks, remote learning suites, overlooks and monumental stairs, this collaborative environment is the heart of the campus and recognizes the critical importance of anchoring learning environments with a variety of spaces that enable and enhance the exchange of ideas. 

Like the ‘House of Wisdom’ created by the Caliph Al-Mansur in the 8th Century CE during the Islamic Golden Age, in which “…scientists, scribes, authors, writers, copyists and others used to meet every day for the purposes of translation, reading, writing, scribing, discourse, dialogue and discussion…”, the new Students Affairs and Governance Building’s overriding planning strategy centers around creating places for knowledge exchange to be proudly on display and to form the heart of this institution. 

To achieve this, we have proposed a simple concentrically layered space planning principle, in which spaces for private work (offices) are pushed to the building’s perimeter, while spaces for knowledge exchange (classrooms/labs) and spaces for interactive socializing (break areas) are increasingly at the building’s center, on full view and visually connected to one another. This strategy creates the organizational framework for achieving ideal departmental adjacencies, efficient circulation, easy self-orientation and appropriate layering of the program spaces, from the most social to the most private. 

To reinforce the central importance of gathering, the building’s woven stone mass itself is lifted dramatically at its corners to reveal the deep-set, protected glass volume of the Hall of IQRA. At night, the revealed Hall becomes a glowing beacon for the campus and its community.