Client: General Authority of Civil Aviation
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Size: 2,500,000sf
Program: Ticketing/Check-in Hall, Arrivals Hall, Gate Concourses, Security Screening, Immigration/Customs Hall, Retail, Structured Parking
Cost: Confidential
Status: Competition entry completed 2008
Key Roles: Anthony Fieldman, Design Principal

Perkins+Will, Architects of Record

















A new international airport is planned to welcome travelers to the twin holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As such, the airport is a gateway linked indelibly to the history and importance of Islam. Accordingly, it is referred to as the Gateway to the Two Holy Shrines.

Our concept for the terminal was to create a physical gateway out of the defining symbol of Islam – the crescent moon. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that uses the lunar (Umm al-Qura) calendar; as in other Muslim countries, key events begin with the viewing of the lunar crescent (hilāl). While the crescent moon is typically portrayed as a two-dimensional shape, a true crescent moon is in fact spherical. Abstracting this moon-sphere, the terminal is comprised of an enormous up-tilted crescent arch - the world’s largest spanning sphere -, through which travelers pass upon arrival and departure. Made of slip-formed cast-in-place concrete, the structural shell is penetrated by thousands of software-generated, glass-filled oculi of varying sizes to accurately map the position and relative brightness of the star-lit sky as it looked to Mohammed, locally, during the birth night of Islam, on July 16, 622 C.E. (1 Muharram AH 0). This sky-sphere allows pilgrims to feel connected to Mohammed in a way that even further reinforces the lunar structure of Islam. To underscore this central principle, even the vegetation selected for the terminal is comprised of local ‘moon-flowers’ – that is, plants that bloom at night – making physically manifest the arrival of night in this uniquely Saudi Gateway.

Structural Analysis: Guy Nordenson and Associates