Celebrating Ruins

Ibra is the second largest city in the Ash Sharqiyah Region of Oman. It is located about 140 km (1.5 hours) from Muscat and has a population estimated at 35,000 people. Ibra is considered one of the oldest cities in Oman and was once a centre of trade, religion, education and art. The city acquired its importance as a meeting point at the base of the Ash Sharqiya region. The city contains many forts and ruins that stand as evidence of its glamorous past.

The proposal entails designing a Sabla for the city of Ibra. The word Sabla in Omani Arabic dialect refers to a place in each community where people gather and receive hospitality. Sabla also serves as a meeting place to discuss important public issues. A Sabla is a unique form of consensus building that is seen as central to the Gulf nation’s traditions.

The building is composed of four spaces; the main hall that functions as a gathering space for weddings, funerals, councils or public events, the food hall that supports the main hall, the prayer hall that doubles as a Quran school, and the formal reception quarter for delegates and guests. The design is inspired by the local architecture of the Ibra, namely the old ruins and the heavy walls fencing the city. The hallways between the various programs are suggestive of the intricate paths found within the abandoned forts and ruins. These characteristics are adapted into the design to create a building that is contextual and familiar to the locals.

A series of rammed concrete walls are arranged in layers to define paces and choreograph movement in and around the halls. Internal courtyards are placed strategically to provide natural light and ventilation. White concrete waffle slabs provide the necessary spans for a column free space. The formal simplicity is a response to limitations in available construction techniques and budgetary constraints.

The building acts as a threshold between the town and the wadi. The visitors experience is heightened by the perception of a ruin inhabited by vegetation. The various spaces unfold as one moves through the horizontally stacked arrangement of heavy thick rammed concrete walls.

Team: Ahmad Othman, Raslan Al Hawi, Daniel Furdik, Fayez Najeeb, Shalomi Ninan, Malak Fardoun, Monalyn Gelera

Client: H.E. Dr. Salem Al Ismaeili

Related Projects