Dome of the Rock

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The Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem is Islam’s third most holy site. Built in 688-691 by the Muslim ruler Abd el Malik, it marks the spot where Mohammed ascended into heaven and where Abraham was ordered to kill his son Isaac.

In 1992, King Hussein of Jordan personally funded a $8.4 million project to replace the Dome’s leaking roofs. Norman & Underwood was commissioned to replace the lead on the octagonal ambulatory roofs and to reclad the 13,000 sq ft Dome, the largest gold covered dome in the world.

On a project of this magnitude, there are no previous examples to refer to, so Norman & Underwood project manager Jonathan Castleman was based in Jerusalem for more than two years to ensure everything was carefully managed.

The first eight months were spent carrying out numerous tests for the client and main contractor. The colour of the gold was critical; if it was too shiny the sun would reflect on it like a mirror and make the Dome appear black. A method also had to be found to stop corrosion coming through the gold plating.

The eventual solution was to first copper plate the brass sheets, then nickel plate them before finally plating them with three microns of 24 carat gold. The fabrication plant was shipped out from the UK so that the gold panels could be cut and electroplated on site.

The Norman & Underwood team also had to work through the riots that followed the Hebron massacre. Twice the fitters were affected by tear gas and they had to sweep the rubber bullets off the roofs before they could work on them.

Scope of work

  • recladding lead roofs with 192 tonnes of code 7 lead sheet
  • electroplating and installing 1,380 gold-plated panels

Main contractor

Mivan Overseas

Contract duration

13 months

Value

£800k

Date of completion

1994