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Ammar Bin Yasser Mosque: Preserving modern urban heritage in AlUla

Walk through the restoration journey of Ammar Bin Yasser Mosque in AlUla, led by SAL Architects

Ammar Bin Yasser mosque: Preserving the past, enriching the future

Ammar Bin Yasser mosque holds great historical importance to locals and the Al Jadidah district, as it is believed to be one of the earliest mosques in the area. Its central location serves as a connecting point between the old town and the new urban development in Jadidah, marking the beginning of the modern movement in the region.

Tasked with the restoration of this religious landmark (led by the Royal Commission of AlUla), was a studio founded in 2017—SAL Architects, led by Salwa Samargandi who sat down with CW Property Middle East and highlighted the importance of maintaining the building’s architectural integrity while promoting community engagement.

What inspired you and your team to take on the restoration of the Ammar Bin Yasser mosque in AlUla?

AlUla has been a huge source of inspiration for us, and working on the restoration and regeneration design of the mosque with the RCU and the firm that generously covered the construction costs was a truly special experience.

We wanted to restore the mosque as it has been designated as a ‘modern urban heritage’ from the twentieth century. Our goal was to emphasise the significance of preserving modern heritage, including its identity, characteristics, and distinct architectural style. For instance, we highlighted features like the simple rectangular shape, pointed arches, canopy, and squared head in the minaret. At the same time, we aimed to enhance the overall facility with subtle updates that complement the surrounding area, cater to the community, and align with the RCU masterplan vision.

What were the key challenges you encountered during the restoration process, and how did you overcome them?

During any restoration project, whether it’s for an old historical site or a modern building, there’s always the possibility of unexpected surprises popping up as you peel back the layers to begin the restoration process. Let’s take a column as an example. Sometimes, we realise during the design process that it’s not quite clear what needs to be done. That’s where quick, solution-oriented thinking comes into play.

We also have to consider the limitations of the existing building and its ability to handle changes like the age of the concrete, height restrictions, and implementing new systems while preserving the original look. We are super proud that we could work together as a team and come up with integrated design solutions without drastically altering the building’s character.

How did you approach balancing the preservation of the mosque’s modernist architectural elements with the need for restoration and community involvement?

When it came to renovating the mosque to preserve its modern heritage, we made sure to prioritise concrete repairs. At the same time, we wanted to bring back the hand plastering and painting techniques that were originally used on both the interior and exterior.

Moreover, through a thoughtful design process, we carefully considered the heritage components and balanced them with architectural interventions. In this project, we made a major intervention by moving back the wet services and adding a northern entrance that aligns with the overall masterplan of the area and the public space in front of it. This is also a great example of how we can make decisions that enhance the user experience while still honouring the building’s heritage.

We also had the opportunity to engage with both locals and Emams to learn about the mosque’s history, significance to the community, and its connections to the area. These conversations deepened our understanding and inspired our design choices.

How do you envision SAL Architects contributing to the architectural landscape of Saudi Arabia?

At SAL Architects, we see ourselves as a key player in shaping the future of Saudi Arabia’s landscape. Our goal is to offer a mix of design services and solutions that stand out from the rest. By combining our knowledge of cultural heritage and the local context, we create spaces that are both cutting-edge and community-focused. Our overarching goal is to enhance the quality of life and foster a strong cultural identity of Saudi Arabia.