A leak to You Tube has exposed consultant Atkins’ confidential masterplanning work for Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The confidential designs produced by Atkins show an Ottoman-era section of the Haram mosque replaced by a series of 80m high, multi-storey prayer halls, boosting capacity from 900,000 worshippers now to more than two million. The form of the prayer hall is designed to resemble worshippers in prayer.
A proposed second phase of development controversially envisages demolishing the old mosque and replacing it with a modern doughnut-shaped building, capable of accommodating more than 5M pilgrims. Only the Kaaba would remain.
Each year about 3M people take part in the main Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, often leading to chronic overcrowding which has resulted in thousands of deaths.
The Saudi royal family has embarked on a modernisation programme, the first phase of which could cost up to £13bn.
Earlier this month the Sunday Times revealed that architects Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid are involved in plans to transform the landscape around Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, to make way for a high-rise metropolis complete with high-speed rail link for pilgrims. Neither Foster nor Hadid were prepared to discuss their plans with the newspaper.
Atkins said it could not comment on the plans, as they remain confidential.