foster + partners celebrates the opening of its ‘house of wisdom‘ in the united arab emirate‘s ‘digital future’ city, sharjah. defined by its slender, floating roof and rhythmic, translucent facade, the library and cultural center seeks to be the catalyst for a new cultural quarter in the city. expressing a sense of lightness and clarity, the roof’s 15-meter wide overhang shades the light-filtering fixed aluminum screens and operable, ground-level bamboo screens. led by research and innovation, the library integrates such high-tech facilities as an espresso book machine that prints and binds books on-demand.

foster house wisdom
water feature in front of the house of wisdom
images by chris goldstraw | @chrisgoldstraw

the team at foster + partners designs its ‘house of wisdom’ to welcome visitors from the west into a light-filled, double-height reception courtyard. this densely planted green area introduces a comfortable outdoor environment for social events or quiet contemplation. the ground floor contains large spaces for exhibitions, a café alongside a children’s educational space, an archive, and a reading area. head of studio, foster + partners gerard evenden comments: ‘the house of wisdom in sharjah is a forward-looking conception of what a library should be in the 21st century – embracing a digital future while playing a crucial role as a community hub for learning, underpinned by innovation and technology.’

foster house wisdom
exterior view of the house of wisdom

the house of wisdom’s defining ‘floating’ roof is supported by four cores to create a large column-free floor plate. 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 pod spaces suspended above the central courtyard, which offer both quiet and collaborative spaces, exhibition areas and reading lounges including a prayer room and a women-only area. throughout the building, the team seeks to establish and retain a connection with the site, looking onto the gardens surrounding the building. the project is developed by the sharjah investment and development authority and celebrate sharjah’s status as UNESCO world book capital 2019.

foster house wisdom
interior knowledge garden

foster house wisdom
mezzanine area

foster house wisdom
interior library study area

foster house wisdom
perforated aluminum sun screens

foster house wisdom
perforated aluminum sun screens

foster house wisdom
reception desk

foster + partners opens its 'house of wisdom' to celebrate digital future of UAE
spiral staircase and elevator

foster + partners opens its 'house of wisdom' to celebrate digital future of UAE
water feature in front of the house of wisdom

foster + partners opens its 'house of wisdom' to celebrate digital future of UAE
the scroll sculpture

project info:

architect: foster + partners

name: house of wisdom

function: library and cultural center

location: sharjah, UAE

developer: sharjah investment and development authority (shurooq)

photography: chris goldstraw | @chrisgoldstraw