Al Medy Mosque

Al Medy mosque has been built in the heart of Riyadh, by Ar Riyadh Development Authority. It was the first step of a technology transfer in earth architecture from Auroville to Saudi Arabia.

This mosque of 457 m2 is covered with a vaulted roof and has a minaret of 18.05 m high. It was built in only 7 weeks with semi-skilled labour, with the technologies developed in Auroville.

Al Medy mosque was a finalist for the Aga Khan Award of Architecture in 2007. The project was granted in 2010 the First prize “Prince Sultan Bin Salman Award For Urban Heritage”, Al-Turath Foundation, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The initial concept sketch for the mosque was done by the “Riyadh Development Authority”, who was interested to promote indigenous-style architecture in Saudi Arabia, through using modern building techniques. They imagined building a mosque in the heart of Riyadh, which could be a showcase on appropriate building technologies with earth blocks.

The contracting company in Riyadh, Jazirah Gate Co. was unable to handle all the specialized design and work required. Thus they contacted Satprem in July-August 2003 to design the mosque, start the earth blocks production and organize everything. Satprem did the entire design of the mosque, except for the foundations, which were done by the Syrian Engineer Mohammed Abdulaziz. The latter helped also in the construction process with some site supervision.

As the Auram press 3000 was ordered too late by the contracting company, it did not arrived before the departure of Satprem, end of August. Satprem could hopefully manage to take back a Belgian press that he used 15 years ago when he built an exhibition centre near Riyadh, in 2 months for the Royal Commission of Jubail and Yambu. Thus the block production could be started end of August with a minimum training of the labour.

Note that the Belgian press could not produce the various qualities of blocks required for building the vaults and domes of the mosque, and its block size was not adapted to the design of the mosque. Therefore, its mould had to be modified so as to give the proper block size for the walls. When the Auram press arrived, the local team could go ahead producing about 160,000 blocks required in 32 shapes/sizes with the Auram press 3000 and the Belgian presses.

The contracting company could not manage to produce all the blocks and prepare the foundations and slab for the construction period, to be started in December 2003. Therefore, when Satprem came back with Ayyappan and a team of 4 other specialist workers they found a site not ready and they had to spend 2 weeks to finalise everything and prepare the work needed to start the construction site.

The superstructure was started on the 5th January 2004 with the laying of the stone basement. Due to the time frame given to the Auroville Earth Institute, the raw construction of this project was completed in seven weeks, on 23rd February 2004 till the top of the minaret, with all pipes and cables for electricity, air-conditioning and sound system.

The Auroville Earth Institute could take up such a challenge because the Auroville team knew how to take the means required to handle such a project in a so short time and to supervise daily about 75 unskilled masons and 150 labours.

In fact the local contractor had not been able to handle such a project within the time frame given to him by the city of Riyadh. Left on his own, the contractor took 4.5 months to produce the blocks and do the foundations. Under the management of the Auroville Earth Institute team, the raw construction of the 457 m2 mosque was completed in 7 weeks, from the stone basement to the top of the 18.05m high minaret. But the finishes were done without the help from the Auroville Earth Institute and the local contractor took 7.5 months to complete them. The mosque was finally completed on the 12th October 2004 and it was inaugurated by the prince Salman.


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