Thursday, June 29, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s ‘House of Wisdom’

September 24 2009

At an official ceremony in Jeddah yesterday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia unveiled the first stage of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to 3000 guests and international dignitaries.

KAUST aims to be a world-class scientific centre, to relax the nation’s dependence upon oil revenue by developing new sustainable technologies in the fields of energy and agriculture.

Backed by a $10bn endowment fund, KAUST has been able to forge partnerships with a number of foreign research institutions including MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Oxford, Tokyo and Cambridge universities. The 36sq km campus currently hosts 400 students, a number it hopes will swell to 2,000 by 2020.

Designed by the US-headquartered mega-firm HOK, and constructed by Aramco – Saudi Arabia’s national oil company – works are rapidly advancing on the Library, Solar Tower, Research labs, Student Centre buildings and the iconic Breakwater Beacon – a key focus of the inauguration celebrations. The campus forms part of a much larger masterplan designed to accommodate 12,000 people.

Photos from the official Kaust Flickr page exhibit the completed educational facilities, including the campus centre atrium, library, nanofabrication lab, fully immersive virtual reality room, and a supercomputer named ‘Shaheen’, the Arabic name for the Peregrine Falcon.

In his address, the King highlighted the role education can play in spreading tolerance, stating “Humanity has been the target of vicious attacks from extremists, who speak the language of hatred. Undoubtedly, scientific centres that embrace all peoples are the first line of defence against extremists. And today, this university will become a ‘House of Wisdom’ and a ‘Beacon of Tolerance’.”

Indeed, the FT reports “Officials insist the institution will have full academic freedom with the political backing of King Abdullah”, but also cautions that “this assertion is yet to be tested”.

Images: All images by KAUST_Photos on Flickr.
Sources: Financial Times, KAUST inauguration and Arab News

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