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Jubail Community in Saudi Arabia

 From the notebooks of the architect James Leefe



The rural fishing village of Jubail was quite small and undeveloped until the mid-1970s. In 1975, the government of the Saudi Arabian kingdom designated it to become a designated industrial city. With this decision, Bechtel Corp. was commissioned to design and construct the necessary elements. Their architect James Leefe was in charge of one of his specialty and favorite aspect of construction, public housing.

James Leefe had studied extensively the theory and practice of budget housing and the dominating factors that make them either succeed or fail. This was slightly different because it was for workers and the government, not for a small public work budget. For each type, however, he employed much of the same practice. There were two kinds of houses, all designed identically, in their class, which were constructed in the desert, with lush courtyards and amenities.

This is the "management center" for the entire Jubail Industrial Complex, at construction. It is a self-sufficient community, and a headquarters and office area, which housed originally the crew of builders and Bechtel, and the Royal Commission. The community was planned to be occupied after this by managers of the companies in the industrial city, for fifteen years, at which point the managerial staff would be moved in to permanent housing. However, the city was not to be demolished after, in fact, it was used for less permanent companies or sub-contractors.

The design for a self-sufficient community contained among a complete array of services, the two designs of housing mentioned before, for single occupants and others for families, shopping and commercial centers, and elementary school, a Mosque, a clinic, community office, a service station, warehouses, and other buildings and services. At the time of this immediate industrialization, there were other, similar communities like these in the region.



James Leefe wrote in his planning, on the subject of the environment, that "tradition tells us to turn our backs to [the desert]". In designing against this impulse, he used a design maximizing the interaction of people and minimizing the force of the desert on the residents. He was working for the human element in designing desirable and functional structures; he did not attempt to refute the desert and its ubiquitous presence, but worked around it in designing the most environmentally controlled environments for people to live.



Photos and text Copyright 2005 Museum of European Art

No part of the text or any of the photographs may be reproduced without a written permission from the copyright holder, the Museum of European Art, 10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York 14031 (USA). Contact John Zavrel, Director, at  zavrel@meaus.com


© PROMETHEUS 117/2007

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 117, March 2007