Madinah Piazza Shading Project

The biggest convertible roof in the world

Few pilgrims miss the opportunity to visit the Holy Mosque of the Prophet in Medina once the hajj is over. Despite two expansions in the second half of the 20th century, there was often insufficient space in the mosque and people gathered on the square in front of its walls to pray. As a result, the planning of a partial covering for this open-air space outside the mosque complex began as soon as the last new build had been completed.

Based on its design for the courtyards of the Prophet’s Mosque, SL Rasch developed a new type of umbrella that features an innovative folding arm system with six hinges. The umbrellas are also two different heights. This allows their membranes to be overlapped to create a continuous canopy. Besides providing lasting protection from the weather and UV radiation, the specially developed Teflon fabric is dirt-repellent and wear-resistant, as well as delivering the crucial benefit of high tensile strength. The material is also extremely smooth and supple and falls in attractive folds. The tapes and seams are accentuated in colour to add a floral quality to the funnel-like membranes. When folded, the membranes are protected from the sand and wind by cladding panels made of a glass-fibre-reinforced composite. They are decorated with fine mosaics made of weatherproof glass tiles that blend in with the architecture of the mosque.

A unique atmosphere

When it comes to transforming a paved, sun-drenched space into a shady oasis, lightweight textile structures are second to none.

The convertible shading roof provides a sheltered space of exquisite architectural quality for up to 250,000 people. The play of light created by the translucent membrane vaulting creates a unique atmosphere in this special place and invites pilgrims to linger, pray and interact. The umbrellas are arranged in groups of between two and 15 units. Gaps in the main axis permit an unobstructed view of the mosque and minarets and thus provide orientation. This unique lightweight architecture – the biggest convertible roof in the world – earned SL Rasch the generously endowed Abdullatif-Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture.