LCE Architects were asked to prepare a preliminary generic design for “Cultural Centres”, to provide facilities for performance, exhibition, learning and socialising for the enjoyment of everybody across all generations in locations where no such provisions currently exist. This required a range of facilities that could be adapted for different sizes and locations whilst being responsive to the regional variations of the Libyan climate.
Considerable research was undertaken into Libyan culture and its regional differences. Architecturally the form is to be traditional with the regional variations expressed in the detail – arches, mashrabiya, colonnades, shading devices etc – and the aim was not to invent new vocabularies, but reflect existing architectural language that can be sensitive to the various regions and their cultural characteristics. The plans were developed around the key accommodation – prayer room, auditorium, multi-purpose hall, library, teaching facilities, galley, retail/workshop and restaurant – configured in a compact plan around a main courtyard with “streets” linking it to subsidiary courtyards, in a way that reflects the elements of an old city, its walls, its squares, its narrow and irregular streets. All circulation within the centre is external, generally in shaded routes at ground level, but also on the roofs, to be enjoyed in the cooler evening air.
Initial research would suggest that there is a requirement for 3 sizes of centre and for one to be located in each of 19 towns and cities. An arrangement was found that can accommodate different sites in size, shape and relationship to its surroundings whilst maintaining the same accommodation albeit in a tailor made pattern. This strategy will enable economies of scale to be found should a number of these buildings be commissioned at the same time.