The main purpose of the competition for the Al Ansar hospital project was to select the candidate to design the healthcare facility for pilgrims in the city of Medina during the Hajj and Umrah festivities, the two main annual religious pilgrimages in the Muslim world. It brought together the most prestigious international firms.
Stringent energy performance certifications for buildings
Al Ansar Hospital is the first public-private hospital project in Saudi Arabia. The site was chosen because of its proximity to the Prophet’s Mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawī, which was built by the Prophet Muhammad himself and is his burial place. Medina is the second most important holy city in Islam, after Mecca, precisely because it contains the remains of the Prophet.
The plot is just over 13,000 m2, which made it very difficult to develop the more than 83,400 m2 spread over 11 floors that the intense project required.
The Al Ansar Hospital facilities were designed with innovative, sustainable and energy efficient strategies, drawn up for the most ambitious certifications such as LEED GOLD.
The environment and architectural language of the hospital
There is a dialogue between the hospital building and the planned urban tapestry, based on simple and recognisable elements of the Rua Al Madinah (RAM) urban project, such as scale, architecture, and cultural and religious connections with the surroundings. The scale of the building complies with two main requirements: to accommodate future population growth and to create a positive influence on the surroundings because of the sheer size of the building and its iconic importance.
The architectural language chosen for the Al Ansar Hospital follows the guidelines provided to consolidate the historical and cultural values of the city, based on the use of Mashrabiyas (traditional latticework of Islamic architecture), openings in the façade, colours, etc. From an urban perspective, the project analyses population and growth patterns, local history and the movement towards the periphery of the city of Medina to provide an integrative social solution.
The new hospital would connect patients and visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque, orienting all rooms and public spaces towards it. In contrast, the technical areas would be oriented to the east, close to the old city and framed by the green courtyards generated between the gaps in the open framework. These two sides adapt beautifully to the environment by dissolving the scale into smaller pieces of landscape (Sky Gardens), towards the rest of the city.
Because of Medina’s high temperatures, the building was designed to dissipate as much heat as possible. This is achieved by breaking up the volume into different parts, alternating full and empty. The main elevation is divided into four volumes and on the Almida Street side there are another seven. These help create air flow around the building, just as the internal courtyards create vertical air movement because of their temperature difference.
Green spaces provide protection and shade for walls and floors to prevent overheating, and provide some evaporative cooling. Gardens incorporated into hospital architecture become useful active cooling surfaces.
Humans have an innate affinity for nature and their connection to it is beneficial. The integration of vegetation, light, water and all kinds of natural elements in architecture positively affects the perception of space and the time people spend in it. Al Ansar Hospital connects with nature through different strategies. The project incorporates two different shapes of courtyards in the design of the building: triangular and rectangular. The triangular courtyards bring natural light into all the units on the upper floors of the building on the west side. The most relevant addition to the landscape design are the interior gardens located on the top floors on the east side of the building.
Al Ansar Hospital is a building that not only provides the services and necessities required in a unique cultural context, but also illuminates the city with its powerful, honest and respectful design.