Medina, Saudi Arabia


When muslims make their pilgrimage to Medina to pray at Islam’s second-holiest mosque, there is now shelter from the extreme sun for the crowds that spill into the surrounding plaza. SL-Rasch, a German firm specializing in lightweight structures, constructed 260 giant umbrellas to provide shade for an area of over one-and-a-half million square feet. The firm worked with a team including SEFAR Architecture (supplier of the durable yet flexible PTFE fabric), to create the 49-foot-tall sunshades. To prevent the umbrella frames from colliding when opening and closing, the team programmed them to unfold sequentially with a slight delay, resembling a time-lapse video of a field of blooming flowers. When closed, each umbrella is encased in a narrow fiberglass column (several shown in background) that features integrated lighting. The sun-shading project has successfully reduced the piazza’s ambient temperature by 14 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring a more comfortable environment for both body and soul.