More about the Cultural Complex in Muscat by Architecture Studio


Image and information courtesy of Architecture Studio. Copyright by desMena.

Architecture Studio have provided us with additional information explaining the design of their Cultural Complex project in Muscat  in detail.

The Cultural Complex : the development of an urban fabric

The unique programme plans to bring together on one site the National
Archives, the National Library, the National Theatre, Arts Gallery and facilities.
This new project offers Muscat an opportunity to build a new urban centre in
the heart of the city, in which Omani culture and history will be accessible to
The Cultural Complex of Oman is designed as a connecting link between Past
and Present. It is a place where History is not separated from contemporary
life. On the contrary, History here is a living root, a conduit providing rich sustenance
for contemporary society.
Architecture has the power to assemble human beings into a single whole. It
provides reason and motivation for their endeavours. It is the framework which
reveals the wealth and vitality of the city’s culture.
Our proposal for the Oman Cultural Complex carries this richness into an
urban context. Our aim is to propose a building which will be able to fit in the
urban area of the city. It will also create a contemporary dimension which is
open to the world.

The concept : a double matrix

The Cultural Complex is established at the main gates of the City. It must therefore
be a building which is instantly recognisable and known by all. In this
unique landscape between the mountain and the sea, the project reflects the
idea of an Oasis created by Palm trees and mineral canopy. The perforated
mineral canopy creates a monumental mushrabeyeh which protects the buildings
and the users.
The main design of the building is developed on the basis of a double matrix.
This creates a wide framework for the development of a variety of designs.
This double matrix is divided into two entities:
– a matrix generated by the earth
– a matrix generated by the sky “the Mineral Canopy”

The matrix generated by the earth possesses a vast square shape composed
of slabs of local stone. This establishes the Cultural Complex in the city. This
area in stone is located at the centre of the site. It defines the location of the
square of City and its Culture. Three particular buildings are established
around the square:
– The National Archives
– The National Library
– The National Theatre
“The Mineral Canopy”, a matrix in relation to the sky, has a complex surface of
different sections, which gives the impression that it is floating on air. The outer
layers are composed of a grid made of concrete. The infilling for this structure
is made of perforated aluminium panels of various dimensions.
The main area of the Complex is located between the two matrixes. The lightness
of the canopy and the play of transparencies on the roof relieve the massive
stone structure with light reflected off the ground. The opposition of
ground and sky is dynamic and adds life to the activities within the cultural
The play of meaningful contrasts is emphasized everywhere. The stone area
represents local cultural activities. On the other hand, the aluminium panels
are industrially made and create a contemporary aesthetic design, whereas
evoking the mushrabeyeh of the local architecture.
These dimensions of the building in a world of globalization give Muscat a
contemporary context, but which also shows the influence of a strong local
This multifaceted reality, highly complex in its definition, is inscribed in the
architecture of Oman’s Cultural Complex.

A simple and legible organisation

The double matrix constitutes the envelope, the skin of the building. Inside this
double skin, the City of the Arts is divided into three separate entities:
– The National Archives
– The National Library
– The National Theatre
Each entity comprises a main building. The three are connected to each other
by a double matrix.

The National Archives and the National Library together create a twin building.
They are established on both sides of the square, on the north and the south.
The National Theatre is situated between the two. It faces the entrance on the
western façade of the square. Its shape is different. It plays with the opposition
between the stone of the basement and the aluminium of the canopy. In the
axis of the theatre, the aluminium canopy broadens, thus delineating an
‘acoustic urban architecture’, making clear the relationship between the theatre
and the City.
These three main entities cover an urban area structured around the square of
the Arts Complex. The square is designed to become a place that will play a
real role in the City. The square is also of sufficient dimensions to accommodate
further cultural activities.
A gallery protected from the sun by the mushrabeyeh runs through the four
sides of the square. Through this gallery, on the eastern façade, access is provided
to the square and the culture complex. On the three other sides, there is
access to three institutions:
– On the south façade, access to the National Archives;
– On the west façade, one has access to the National Theatre;
– On the north façade, one has access to the National Library.

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