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Architecture Knowledge Review Podcast Series

Architecture Knowledge Review is a podcast series for design professionals, featuring interviews, discussions, and best practices by architects and other design professionals who are at the forefront of the profession. Visit this page often for more information on specific topics and presentations.

The 2010 AIA 25-Year Award: The Hajj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport

Podcast: 2010/6/12 – 31:55

Presenters: John Zils, FAIA, Gordon Wildermuth, FAIA and Jeffrey J. McCarthy, AIA

In this podcast, we’ll have a special conversation about the 2010 recipient of this award: the Hajj Terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which was designed by the Chicago and New York offices of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Millions of Hajj pilgrims to the Islamic holy site of Mecca travel through this tented, open-air terminal every year. Therefore, it was designed and serves as a gathering place of religious fellowship, an improvised campsite for pilgrims waiting to begin their journey, and a point of departure and gateway to Islam’s most revered places.

In conferring the 25-Year Award, the jury had this to say about the Hajj Terminal:

“This is a modernist structure that captures the spirit of Middle East nomadic architecture—nomadic being pertinent at no less of a place than an airport.

“The architects created a highly sustainable project well ahead of the green movement; they learned from the way people have inhabited the desert since early civilization—screening the sun, allowing natural light and ventilation. They did so much with so little—few materials, a regular rhythm of structural bays, a simple fabric structure that works as shelter, as environmental control, and as a tie to tradition. . . .

“ . . . It has acquired landmark status as an airport and in the region . . . [and has] set the standard for many airports since.”

With me today are three of the SOM architects who worked on this iconic structure:

Jeffrey J. McCarthy, AIA, is a managing partner in the Chicago office of SOM and serves on the Executive Committee that governs the firm. He joined the Chicago office in May 1977, and for his first two years at SOM, he was a project architect working on the King Abdul Aziz International Airport Master Plan as well as on the Hajj Terminal.

Gordon Wildermuth, FAIA, is a former managing partner of SOM, currently retired. His work for SOM was international in scope, covering such diverse locations as South America, the U.K., Europe, China, Southeast Asia, and Saudi Arabia—including his work on the Hajj Terminal.

John Zils, FAIA, is currently a part-time senior structural consultant for SOM, having recently retired as an associate partner after more than 40 years with the firm. During his tenure, he was responsible for the design of numerous major building projects throughout the U.S. and the world, including the Sears Tower in Chicago; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; Millennium Park (Pritzker Pavilion) in Chicago; and the Hajj Terminal, for which he specifically served as senior structural engineer.

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