Ever wonder what an Arabian lighthouse looks like? Mariners approaching the Red Sea harbor at Thuwal, about one hour north of sprawling Mecca, Saudi Arabia are now guided to shore by a soaring new honeycomb lighthouse designed by the Australian firm Urban Art Projects.
Commissioned by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a leading Arab research organization that is devoting increasing resources to clean energy and water research and development, the 60 meter Breakwater Beacon also functions as a communal rendezvous spot.
Built with hexagonal precast concrete blocks, this curious new design takes cues from ancient Islamic art and architectural motifs, and from coral – a once ubiquitous natural Red Sea feature that is now imperiled by various development projects along the coast.
Although concrete has never been our favorite building material given that genuine earth construction has greater thermal massing and a smaller environmental impact, Breakwater Beacon is nonetheless a naturally-cooled tower that relies on the stack effect to promote ventilation.
UAP worked with Bureau^Proberts, Norman Disney & Young, and Robert Bird Group to complete construction of the new lighthouse, who contributed lighting and engineering expertise to the development.
The cellular structure softens harsh light to create a comfortable interior environment that invites community members to take part in events staged at the base of the beacon.
In essence the lighthouse looks and functions like a giant mashrabiya screen shaped like a funnel that sucks up hot air from the base, dispels it at the point, and draws a cooler current from the sea.
More than just an emblematic waste of material marking the university’s entrance – though it is that as well, the lighthouse does serve a purpose at night when it is lit up from within to guide men and women at sea.
Images © Urban Art Projects