KAPSARC Mosque: A Spiritual Centre for the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center by HOK

Samuel Nguma
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This community masjid, or mosque by HOK, is the spiritual centre of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre’s residential development. A series of outdoor courtyards provide a formal progression towards the mosque, located in the middle of the site’s central green space. The courtyards have an axial alignment toward Mecca and the Kaaba, the most sacred places in Islam.


Surrounded by a reflective pool, the mosque is elevated three feet above the adjacent outdoor spaces. This pool glows at night, creating the illusion that the building is levitating over water. Worshippers enter the mosque by climbing floating stone steps and traversing a glass bridge over the reflective pool. This procession represents the transition of leaving the profane world to enter the sacred realm. To either side of the prayer hall, curving walls screen supporting functions, including ablution spaces and imam’s office.


As a monolithic core perforated with a pattern of glowing windows and surrounded by glass, the mosque’s appearance changes from day to night. During the day, the shadows from the complex mullion patterns travel over the inner stone façade, creating a dynamic experience that varies by season. At night, the glass box acts like a lantern washed with light at the bottom and punctuated with points of light near its summit. Located adjacent to the mosque, the 115-foot-tall minaret tower mirrors the patterns of the mosque’s façade and facilitates the daily calls to prayer.


The interior is an interplay of shade and shadows, viewed through the lens and technological interpretation of a traditional mashrabiya screen wall. Wrapping all four walls and the ceiling, the screen glows with the natural light of the punched windows and skylights, creating a bright, modern interior. Overlapping shapes enliven the inner walls, while the ceiling presents a more traditional design.


Being a recipient of the 2014 Religious Art & Architecture Awards, the jury was quoted to have said: “The design of this mosque does everything well. It finds a way to not succumb to regurgitated conventionality, but instead finds artistic ways of capturing tradition and expressing the time and place in which it is built. Superbly crafted and designed, the building itself is a cause for conversation. The light emanating from the building is inspirational. Perhaps it will start new traditions…”

Project Information
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Status: Completed, 2014
Photographs: Abdulrahman Alolyan, HOK

Samuel Nguma

About the author

Samuel Nguma

Samuel Nguma is an Editor for Archute. He enjoys taking long walks and reading short stories. He is an ardent lover of architecture which he studied at the University of Nairobi.