The concert hall cannot be seen at all from some angles. Even if you are standing right in front of it

A concert hall in Saudi Arabia, in the Al-‘Ula area, boasts an unexpected world first. Anyone who thought the recording would pay attention to, say, the acoustics or the capacity of the main hall, would be in for a big surprise. This concert hall is the largest building in the world that is completely covered in mirrors. Few people are surprised that the name Maraya can be translated into Czech as “Mirror”.

Of course, an architectural competition was also announced for this building. At the time, the Royal Arab Commission for the Al-‘Ula area was excited by the idea of ​​not adding another element to the place’s rich history, unique natural landscapes, and nearby monuments from the Nabatean period (4th century BC), but by humility only reflects his environment. “When you build something in a beautiful place, what do you do? You can’t compete – so let’s improve the landscape,” he told the web magazine ArchiExpo Alberto Bounous, development director of the Royal Commission for Al-‘Ula, who commissioned the project design to Milan studio Giò Forma.

The brief is to design a complex capable of hosting concerts and other cultural events in an area of ​​immense archaeological and scenic value. “We thought about how to create a relationship between the building and the existing environment in the most respectable way. Maraya is a multi-purpose theatre, entertainment and conference venue. It has a unique and unprecedented 40 x 15 m stage, with giant windows that can be towed with an area of ​​more than 800 m2, which opens up to the surrounding nature, allowing performances right on the desert level, where large numbers of players can perform in unique scenarios both indoors and outdoors. The stage itself thus connects landscape and entertainment,” the Italian architects describe their work.

The building has a floor plan of 100 x 100 meters and the mirrors on the shell cover an area of ​​9740 m2the blessing is also recorded in Guinness Book of Records.

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It’s not at all easy with mirrors

At first it was just a mirror, but it wasn’t easy at all. When a construction worker installs a building’s steel frame, it needs to be coated. The first attempt did not go well, and the company that first took on the task later withdrew from the project. “The exterior is covered with what can only be described as a giant metal sheet that reflects a distorted and crumpled version of the environment,” explains on its website the American company Guardian Glass, which eventually developed mirrors for the harsh desert conditions and covered the buildings with them.

“Dressing a 500-seat concert hall in the middle of a vast desert with giant mirrors was a huge technical and logistical conundrum,” continues the producer.

It is no coincidence that developers around the world try to avoid mirror surfaces in their constructions as much as possible. The durability of an ordinary mirror on the outside is not the greatest. The life of the mirror is shortened by humidity, ultraviolet and infrared radiation, and general intense sunlight. Therefore, the mirror outside quickly corroded, lost its color and shape.

To avoid all the risks mentioned, the Americans chose copper as the basis for the mirror panels and provided a mirror made of precisely cut tempered glass sheets with a protective surface.

However, many consider the moment when the company was able to develop and manufacture mirrors to be the greatest miracle. He only had three months to do it. He won a contract in the fall of 2018, and the concert season in the country started in December. By then, the hall should have had its mirrored mantle sewn up in order to open in time for the first performers and their audience.


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Camilla Salazar

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