Architecture

Whatever the brief, we’ll solve the challenge

»In architecture, the true avant-garde is made up of the visionaries, researchers and inventors who bring new ideas within feasible reach. Ideas, inventions and research are the real driving force behind construction. They’re the very foundations of architecture. It takes a long time for ideas to be understood.«
— Frei Otto

Our developments range from simple awnings and large-scale lightweight structures all the way to complex, movable domes and entire building complexes. Whatever the project brief, we have the expertise to solve the challenge. When working on historic and landmarked buildings – especially under complicated geological and topographic conditions – lightweight structures often provide the optimal answer. The fact that they are usually point-supported and anchored is probably one of the most important aspects in their favour: when it comes to unsupported coverings for large areas, no other type of structure can compete.

To find the most suitable forms, we use an iterative and incremental approach based on physical self-formation processes: the form evolves as the laws of nature dictate. These formative forces include surface tension, adhesion, gravity, pressure differences and magnetic or electrostatic forces.

This process results in extremely efficient structures: minimal surface and space frame structural systems like the biggest clock in the world, the sliding domes for the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, and complex tensile structures for tensioning the membranes of tent structures. Our interdisciplinary team provides the in-house expertise to handle the entire planning process throughout every phase of the project, including the detailed planning.

Tent architecture for the Thuwal Palace beach residence

In 1990, SL Rasch designed and implemented the lightweight architecture for the beach residence in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. The pure forms and balanced blend of lightness and elegance give the tents a sculptural quality. By opening up a view of the surrounding gardens and the sea, the wavelike openings of the convention tent make the outdoor space part of the interior experience.

The 250 funnel-shaped umbrellas on the piazza of the Holy Mosque in Medina add up to the biggest convertible shading roof in the world. Their combined effect creates a sheltered space of outstanding architectural quality where up to 250,000 pilgrims can linger, pray and interact. The play of light created by the translucent membrane vaults conjures up a unique atmosphere in this very special place.

Convertible shading roof for the piazza of the Holy Mosque

The unique and innovative lightweight architecture project on an urban scale earned SL Rasch the generously endowed Abdullatif-Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture and international acclaim.

The second Saudi expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque and tomb of Muhammad in Medina comprises 27 square inner courtyards. In order to enhance the efficiency of the air-conditioning, they were covered with movable domes. The sandwich structure of the outer shell consists of carbon fibre/glass fibre epoxy laminate and ceramic tiles. The inner skin is made of wood/epoxy laminate with maple panelling. It was decorated with hand-carved cedar ornaments, some of them gilded and set with amazonite. The combination of traditional craftsmanship and industrial production, paired with innovative CAD technology, earned the project the Best Innovation award of the Houston-based International Association for Automation and Robotics in Construction (IAARC).

Sliding domes for the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina


Each of the 27 richly decorated domes above the inner courtyards of the Holy Mosque in Medina shades an area of 28 by 28 metres. When they slide to the side after sunset, the heat escapes and cool air can collect during the night. During the day, the air-conditioned courtyards remain closed.

The inauguration of the clock tower marked the beginning of a new era: the world’s biggest clock sets the time not just in Mecca but around the globe, creating a second time standard alongside Greenwich Mean Time. Now Muslims in Berlin, London, New York and Jakarta know exactly when Ramadan begins as the sun rises over Mecca, when they can break their fast after sundown or when to recite their five daily prayers while facing towards Mecca. The time zones of the Muslim world are synchronised to within seconds, with Mecca marking the baseline. The seventh tower of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project is more than a skyscraper: it is also a gigantic compass and a manifestation of faith.

The world’s biggest clock tower in Mecca

To ensure maximum load capacity and keep weight to a minimum, the civil engineering team at SL Rasch developed a structural system with composite profiles made of high-strength steel and concrete. 12,000 tonnes of steel were used at a height of 347 to 607 metres above the ground. The crescent that tops the building is a monocoque structure made entirely of carbon fibre.