Haj Terminal
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Architect Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM)
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Location Jeddah, Saudi Arabia   map
Date 1972 (circa)   timeline
Building Type airport terminal
 Construction System tensile fabric roofs
Climate desert
Style Modern
Notes Engineer Fazlur Kahn. Aga Kahn award winner.




Axonometric Drawing

Plan Drawing

Discussion Haj Terminal Commentary

"The Haj Terminal at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jaddah is located approximately 43.5 miles west of the Holy City of Makkah. Since Jeddah is the only large commercial city in close proximity to Makkah, all air traffic bound for Makkah arrives in Jeddah and proceeds by land transportation from Jaddah to Makkah. Normal airport facilities are capable of handling this traffic during most of the year; however, approximately once a year, vast numbers of Moslem pilgrims from all over the world travel to Makkah to participate in the Haj pilgrimage. The Haj activity takes place within about a six week period resulting in unusually high air traffic for this rather short period of time. Since the public facilities at the new airport were designated to handle only the normal flow of domestic and international air traffic, a separate terminal facility was required to process the Haj pilgrims.

"The Haj Terminal design program required the facility to handle a large volume of people with highly diversified needs over a short period of time. It is projected that this facility will process approximately 950,000 pilgrims during the Haj by the year 1985. It is estimated that the terminal complex will need to accommodate 50,000 pilgrims at one time for periods up to 18 hours during arrival and 80,000 pilgrims for periods up to 36 hours during departure. This time is required in order to transfer between air and land transportation. Therefore, appropriate space, determined to be approximately 5,400,000 square feet, must be created which is adaptable and flexible to the Hajiis' needs.

"In response to these requirements, a scheme was developed which provided for a linear terminal building adjacent to the terminal building. This scheme provided for minimum walking distance for the pilgrims from the planes to the air-conditioned terminal where all formal processing and baggage handling is accomplished. The pilgrims them proceed into the naturally ventilated support area where they will organize for travel by land to Makkah. Because of the rather severe environment in Jeddah, the support complex must be protected from the sun by a roof covering.

"As it may take as many as 18 hours for the pilgrim to conclude the necessary preparations for the Haj, great care has been taken in the design of the support area to make the pilgrim's time in the area as pleasant as possible. Under each module, facilities are located for the pilgrim to rest, sleep and acquire both prepared foods or food which the pilgrim himself may prepare. In addition, many washing and toilet facilities have been provided in each module as well as offices providing banking, postal, airline, bus and taxi, and general information support services.

"There are 210 semi-conical Teflon-coated Fiberglass roof units contained within a total of ten modules. Five modules located on each side of the central spine entry road cover a total area of approximately 105 acres. A single module contains 21 semi-conical fabric roof units stretched and formed by 32 radial cables. The modules are supported by 45-meter-high steel pylons located on a square 45-meter grid. The columns taper from 2.50 meters at their base to 1.00 meter at the top. In each module, steel cables radiate from the top of the columns to a 3.96-meter diameter central steel tension ring to which are attached the steel radial cables. The inherent long-span characteristics of steel cable structures allow for the spacing of columns to be far enough apart to give not only a very open feeling to the large support area but to allow for maximum flexibility in planning for the various support buildings located within the support area.

The form and height of the fabric roof units promote circulation of air from the open side of the support area up to and through the open steel tension ring located at the top of the roof unit. Mechanical fan towers placed intermittently between the columns enhance air circulation. Acoustical problems created by the many thousands of pilgrims located beneath the fabric roof are also diminished due to roof height and material. The fabric roofs provide shelter from intense desert heat. Because the fabric has a low heat transmission, it allows the sun to cast a warm light over the support area; at night, it will become a great reflective surface as pylon-mounted uplights bounce light from the roof to the ground below. Located under the landscaped central mall, two large exhaust fans for each module draw off exhaust fumes of the buses."

— from Oswald W. Grebe. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill: Architecture and Urbanism 1973-1983. p382.

Sources on Haj Terminal

Oswald W. Grube. Skimore, Owings & Merrill: Architecture and Urbanism 1973-1983. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1983. ISBN 0-442-21169-4. LC 83-16955. NA 737.S53B87 1984. Color photo of interior, f13, p388. Color photo of exterior, f6, p387. discussion, p382.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at  Find books about Haj Terminal


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