H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the House of Wisdom, a new cultural edifice and an iconic architectural marvel situated near the University City of Sharjah.
Reimagined as a library of the 21st century, the newly opened House of Wisdom, HoW, is inspired by modern architecture comprising 15 lobbies and halls spread across two storeys.
Set on an elevated platform spanning 12,000 square metres, Sharjah’s House of Wisdom has been designed as an immersive space for learning, sharing, creating, and accessing knowledge. Key spaces bathed in natural light include an expansive lobby, the Al Rasheed Hall, the Espresso Books, Knowledge Terrace, the Wisdom Vault and the Al Ma’moun Exhibition; the Little Reader, the Wisdom Square, the Ibn Duraid Reading Area, the Al Jazri Lab, the Ladies Diwan, the Al Jarhmi Library, and the Al Khawarizmi Exhibition.
Developed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, Shurooq, the new knowledge centre and digital library complex is a hallmark of the libraries of the future – a flexible design that allows the library to grow with the times, vast digital resources, a fabrication lab with 3D printers to build prototypes of experimental projects and cutting-edge technology to print and bind books within minutes. The library’s futuristic suspended private pods for quiet reading and a host of collaborative community spaces are designed in a way that promotes academic and non-academic pursuits, social learning and cultural interaction.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the structure also includes lecture halls, reading lounges, exhibition spaces, a dedicated children’s educational area, a central courtyard, a café, a restaurant, and outdoor gardens planted with local varieties of fig, ghaf and palm trees.
At the library which will be home to 305,000 books, of which 200,000 are in the digital format and 11,000 comprise books in varied languages, the Ruler of Sharjah was briefed on how the futuristic library has been reinterpreted to adapt to the fast-changing world of technology. The children’s library “The Little Reader” houses more than 2,000 books, while another has been set aside for youth with 3,000 titles.
Continuing his tour, Dr. Sheikh Sultan visited the Al Jazari Laboratory (Fabrication Lab), named in honour of inventor Badi Alzaman Al Jazari’s (1136 AD – 1206 AD) scientific contributions to the world. The lab is equipped with cutting-edge technologies and state-of-the-art 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutting machines, and Computer Numerical Control tools.
Sheikh Sultan also visited the spaces dedicated to women and children, including the Ladies Diwan, and the library for children between the ages of 3 and 10 years.
The Sharjah Ruler also toured Iraqi-born, New York-based artist Wafaa Bilal’s major solo exhibition titled “168: 01”, showing for the first time in the Arab world. The exhibition is an expression of the historic loss of a priceless cultural heritage that occurred when a fire destroyed more than 70,000 books at the library of the College of Fine Arts at University of Baghdad in 2003.
He was briefed on the artist’s prominent exhibit featuring a makeshift library filled with empty white books. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to replace the blank books with real ones to restore the collection of destroyed libraries in Iraqi universities and institutes. The donated books will be dedicated to the libraries of universities in Baghdad, Mosul, Babylon, and the Iraqi National Museum.
Dr. Sheikh Sultan also toured a second display of Bilal’s works, ‘The Ashes Series’, a collection of detailed miniature reconstructions of original press photographs which captured the destruction caused by the Iraq War.
He stopped at the Al Rasheed Hall, a space for hosting seminars, events, and conferences in HoW and concluded his tour with a walk through the landscaped gardens featuring 331 trees of 12 different species, and which overlooks the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 monument, “The Scroll” – a 36.5-metre piece of public art created by British sculptor Gerry Judah, inspired by an ancient scroll design that is representative of a celebration of reading and the power of books to unite people.