A new gateway development for pilgrims heading to Mecca's Grand Mosque will contain a luxury hotel and serviced apartments within a stepped complex fabricated by Foster + Partners, after the British practice was recently selected in a design competition. The Jabal Omar Development takes cues from traditional Arab architecture and reinterprets the area's dense building clusters without overwhelming the sacred space. 

The complex is terraced in its form, image via Foster + Partners

"Makkah is one of the most unique cities in the world," said Luke Fox, Head of Studio and Senior Executive Partner, Foster + Partners. "As the home of the Holy Kaaba — the holiest site in Islam — it presents a special challenge and honour for any developer and architect. Our design sets out to create an innovative building form that will be respectful to the scale and importance of the Grand Mosque."

The building's common areas open up to the Holy Kaaba, image via Foster + Partners

The mountainous design addresses the ongoing issue of accommodations in the heavily visited area. The residences and guest rooms inside the building will be oriented towards the Grand Mosque and Holy Kaaba, ensuring that each dedicated space for private prayer is facing the sacrosanct site, as is customary. 

At the base of the development, a pedestrian ramp will take pilgrims through carefully crafted spaces, including a room with large pillars and a perforated metal ceiling. This will allow rays of sunlight to pour into the area, designed to enhance the experience of visiting the Grand Mosque.

Light pours into a space punctuated by pillars, image via Foster + Partners

"Our endeavour has been to make the experience special and appropriate to its unique location," said Fox. "The design follows a philosophy of 'luxury with humility' with an understated elegance throughout the development." 

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