foster + partners’ sharjah library will join a gerry judah sculpture

foster + partners has revealed plans for a library and cultural center in sharjah, a united arab emirates city on the arabian gulf. the two-storey building has been designed to offer a sense of clarity and lightness, with a large floating roof cantilevering on all sides of a transparent rectilinear volume. located ten kilometers (six miles) from the city center, the so-called ‘house of wisdom’ will join ‘the scroll’ — a new piece of public art by gerry judah, which is already in place. ‘gerry’s sculpture is a perfect complement to the minimalist geometry of our building,’ says gerard evenden, head of studio, foster + partners.

foster partners sharjah library
image © foster + partners (also main image)



both the foster + partners-designed library and the spiraling sculpture are being developed by the sharjah investment and development authority and celebrate sharjah’s status as UNESCO world book capital 2019. ‘long considered primarily as repositories for books and periodicals, the role of libraries in the life of contemporary communities is set to be re-imagined for the 21st century,’ evenden continues. ‘the house of wisdom conceptualizes the library as a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology.’

foster partners sharjah library
image © foster + partners



a 15-meter-wide overhang shades the building’s façades throughout most of the day, while aluminum screens filter the low sun in the evenings. visitors enter the building from its western edge into a double-height reception hub with a central courtyard that brings light to the interior spaces. the ground floor contains large spaces for exhibitions, a café, a children’s educational space, an archive, and a reading area with facilities such as a machine that prints and binds books on-demand.

foster partners sharjah library
visitors enter the building from its western edge into a double-height reception hub



the structure’s floating roof is supported by four cores that also contain all the back-of-house and service spaces, creating a large column-free floorplate. the two cores closest to the entrance contain large sculptural staircases that guide people up to the mezzanine floor. the upper floor hosts a series of spaces suspended above the central courtyard, which offer both quiet and collaborative areas, exhibition areas, and reading lounges including a prayer room and a women-only area.

foster partners sharjah library
a range of different spaces are found on the building’s ground floor



externally, the landscape is divided into two sections, one of which contains ‘the scroll’ by gerry judah — a contemporary interpretation of the ancient arabic scrolls as a single, spiraling sculpture that loops towards the sky. using a form of geometry called ‘developable surface’, the curved shell was created from rolled steel plates, cut by lasers guided by computer control, welded together and painted with multiple layers to protect the steel from sandstorms and weather erosion.

a large floating roof cantilevers on all sides of the transparent rectilinear volume

image © foster + partners

image © shurooq-sharjah



project info:


architect: foster + partners
name: house of wisdom
function: library and cultural center
location: sharjah, UAE
developer: sharjah investment and development authority (shurooq)

philip stevens I designboom

apr 24, 2019

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