Yanbu Gatehouse

An Italian architect, Studio 65, won the commission to design the new Yanbu cement works in Saudi Arabia and wanted to demonstrate the versatility of the material.
They designed a gatehouse to look like a ribbon flag on a pole, fluttering out in the dessert wind.
A critical part of the design was that it was to be built using materials available locally, which restricted the choice of reinforcement and mesh that could be specified. It was also to be built by labour largely unfamiliar with working in ferrocement under the direction of just one specialist, so simple, repeatable detailing was needed. Something not easily achieved, given the desired shape.
The temperature gradient between internal and external surfaces and the temperature range between day and night also caused challenging stress concentrations where the ribs joined the skins.
The finished gatehouse won awards when new, and is still going strong over 20 years later.

The key duties undertaken included:

  • Steve King undertook the finite element analysis and structural design required to realise the architect’s designs in dual skin ferrocement, plastered over a polystyrene core to make a result that was light and stiff enough to retain the desired shape.