By Zak Stone
At a symbolic level, a university is meant to be a beacon for those seeking wisdom. At King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, architects reinterpreted that idea abstractly with a gorgeous, white, modern take on a lighthouse, rising 60 meters into the sky out of the harbor at the Red Sea, where the university sits.
According to the website of Australian design team Urban Art Projects, the look of the Kaust Beacon was inspired by "ancient Arabic maritime traditions," and was built out of pre-cast concrete blocks, which are hexagonally shaped at the base, but slowly morph into elliptical spheres.
Inside, a shady area provides space for the university community to gather and host events. Designed to withstand the grueling desert sun, the building cools itself naturally, taking in ocean breezes through its lattice-like frame, which push hot, stale air through the structure's top.
The beacon, completed in 2009, has since become an icon of the university.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.