The House of Wisdom (HoW) is a sprawling new cultural landmark situated in Sharjah. A striking architectural wonder, HoW is housed near the University City of Sharjah and at a short distance from Sharjah International Airport. This iconic new cultural quarter is a 21st Century interpretation of the Abbasid era public library by the same name and is perfectly designed to be the hub for modern day readers and cultural communities.
Developed by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), it was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and officially opened to the public on 9th December, 2020.
A destination for learning and innovation, HoW was built to commemorate the Emirate’s year-long tenure as UNESCO World Book Capital 2019. More than just a home for books, it is a space open to the youth and adults from all walks of life to meet, nurture, engage, and exchange ideas and knowledge. A symbol of the promise to promote reading and ease access to knowledge, HoW is an immersive meeting space for culture, education, arts, and edutainment.
The calendar is packed with a myriad of diverse activities ranging from fun to serious, including a multitude of courses, exhibitions, and talks throughout the year. Art shows by local and international are also part of the program and open to the public for viewing.
The dazzling two-storey façade is inspired by modern architecture, and is a vision of serenity and peace. The expansive artistic design has been carefully planned to be open, inviting, and ensures that the outside and inside all remain seamlessly connected. The modern trailblazing design is conceptualized by architecture firm, Foster & Partners. Poised to be more than just a traditional library, the layout encourages the community to come together in a safe and comfortable space.
Set on an elevated platform spanning 12,000 square meters, there is a large floating roof above. Designed with keeping the desert climate in mind, a 15-metre-wide overhang shades the façades throughout most of the day, while aluminum screens with differing densities filter the low sun in the evenings. The movable screens are deployed only during the late afternoon, when the sun is at its lowest, preserving the visual connections with the landscaped gardens.
Boasting a collection of 305,000 books—two thirds of which are in digital form and 11,000 are in various languages—other features include, The Al Jazri lab, a digital fabrication laboratory where creators can create, and innovators can innovate with ease using state-of-the-art technology and tools. ‘Little Readers,’ is a dedicated safe space for children, where they can enjoy education, entertainment, and browse through over 2,000 books. There are also over 3,000 titles for the youth. Al Rasheed Hall, Al Ma'moun Exhibition, and Al Khawarizmi Exhibition are multipurpose, fully-equipped rentable spaces for conferences, events, and exhibitions.
The double-height reception is surrounded by a verdant courtyard that is flooded with natural light and a sense of calm. The ground floor has large spaces for exhibitions, a dedicated children’s educational space, buzzing café, the archive, and a reading area. One of the highlights on this floor is the ‘espresso book machine’ that prints and binds books on-demand.
The two sweeping staircases leading upstairs are like beautifully constructed sculptures. The upper floor is home to the much sought after individual space-like pods, open spaces, exhibition areas, and reading lounges, including a prayer room and the Ladies Diwan, a women-only area.
The bountiful grounds are perfectly landscaped and offer a Japanese garden, a cactus garden, a reflective water feature, and children’s playground. Visitors can appreciate the 300 trees of 12 different species and other exotic flowers and fauna.
The best-known feature outside is a dramatic sculpture, The Scroll. Designed by British artist, Gerry Juddah, this is an ingenious contemporary interpretation of the ancient Arabic scrolls as a single, spiraling sculpture that loops towards the sky.
The striking structure stands tall at 36 metres tall and weighs 72 tonnes and is designed 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.
House of Wisdom is a unique multipurpose space that promotes learning for all and encourages social integration. Apart from being a stunning structure, it is a thriving new destination, and truly the centre of culture in the heart of Sharjah.
For more information on the House of Wisdom, Sharjah, please click here!
Words: Saira Malik
Images: Courtesy of House of Wisdom