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Saudi Arabia: Top 4 architectural marvels shaping the Kingdom

From the iconic Kingdom Centre to the visionary Ithra and Riyadh Metro station, this piece explores how these structures seamlessly blend luxury, modernity, and cultural heritage, shaping a dynamic and progressive nation

Saudi Arabia: Top 4 architectural marvels shaping the Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is a country with a rich history and vibrant culture, known for its stunning landscapes and bustling cities. Moreover, it has undergone impressive modernisation and urban development, resulting in incredible architecture that combines luxury and modernity. Let’s take a look at the amazing architectural wonders that are shaping and will shape the Saudi landscape, showcasing the beauty of this diverse and evolving Kingdom.

The Kingdom Centre

The Kingdom Centre in Riyadh is a $1.2 billion iconic skyscraper that symbolises modern architecture and innovation in Saudi Arabia. Rising 300 metres from an almond-shaped floor plan, the tower is home to exclusive residences, a luxury mall, and a five-star hotel. It features a large opening at the top, with an observation deck that offers expansive views of Riyadh. The building is clad in silver reflective glass, granite, and brushed aluminium, making it a standout landmark in the city.

The Kingdom Centre in Riyadh features two wings at its base, with landscaped gardens surrounding the block. The west wing includes a large venue, meeting rooms, royal suites, and restaurants. The building is structurally supported by reinforced concrete for the first 180 metres, transitioning to a steel structure for the remaining height due to its unique shape. The exterior is covered in a heat-resistant glass curtain wall to withstand the strong sunlight of the region.

The Kingdom Centre’s almond-shaped profile and silver reflective curtain wall create a soft yet elegant look. The intricate geometric patterns on the facade add a touch of sophistication to the modern architecture. Overall, this iconic building is a masterpiece that showcases the beauty of design and engineering, leaving a lasting impression on all who encounter it.

King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra)

The King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, also known as Ithra, is an initiative by Saudi Aramco to promote cultural development and diversity in Saudi Arabia. Opened in 2018, the centre offers a variety of learning and cultural facilities for the local population and visitors to enjoy, with a focus on enriching the community through access to these resources.

The centre boasts an auditorium that showcases various events such as opera, concerts, musicals, and lectures. In addition, there is a cinema, a library with a vast collection of books, a spacious exhibition hall, and integrated art by both local and international artists. Furthermore, the centre houses a museum and an archive that connects its vibrant cultural life to its historical roots.

This cutting-edge building made of pebbles stands out in its semi-arid surroundings. The main tower reaches a height of 110 metres, with other pebbles surrounding it. Three of these pebbles, the library, the auditorium, and the great hall, appear to be firmly rooted on the ground. The fourth pebble, called the Keystone, is suspended in place, leaning against the tower and the library. Each pebble has its own distinct characteristics, both in terms of physical appearance and functionality.

Just like a Roman arch, where the Keystone is crucial for holding everything together to prevent it from falling apart, the pebbles appear to be stuck in time. This formation showcases the importance of cultural interdependency, reminding us that culture is not just about individual efforts, but a collaborative effort of interconnected forces and ideas working together to build a powerful unity.

Riyadh Metro Station

The Riyadh Metro system, scheduled to be fully operational by Expo 2030, is essential for the city’s growth and sustainable urban development. It consists of six lines and 85 stations, to reduce reliance on private vehicles and cut daily car journeys by up to two million.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects in collaboration with Patrik Schumacher, the station features the late architect’s iconic curves and dynamic forms. It serves as both a transportation hub and a vibrant public space, with six platforms, four public floors, and two levels of underground car parking. Situated at the heart of a network of pathways, sky bridges, and metro lines, the station has been strategically designed to optimise internal circulation and minimise congestion.

The circulation model is based on sine waves, a natural representation of change in nature. The architectural form of the building is a three-dimensional lattice with an undulating façade that serves as a circulation spine and reduces solar gain. The exterior is perforated, drawing inspiration from traditional mashrabiya screens, and the design mimics patterns created by desert winds, resulting in complex repetitions of natural formations.

The King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station is sure to stand out in Riyadh’s changing skyline, showcasing Zaha Hadid’s forward-thinking design principles.

Trojena Ski Village

Trojena Ski Village is slated for completion in 2026, with a gross floor area of 270,000 square metres located in the northernmost portion of the NEOM project area, near Jabal al-Lawz, or Lawz Mountain.

The resort will include year-round skiing (three months on snow and synthetic ‘dry’ skiing all year), retail stores, restaurants, luxury mansions, apartments and luxury hotels including serviced apartments operated by prestigious operators. Like other NEOM luxury tourism destinations, the resort’s architecture is intended to blend in with and extend the natural surrounding landscapes rather than impose structure upon it, using modular construction for its steel-frame structure.

The roof structure of the village, designed to align with the natural undulations of the mountain, provides two km of the planned 36 km of ski slopes. The design harnesses the surroundings to create an even milder microclimate to reduce solar gain and the need for artificial cooling by incorporating landscaping, water features, overhanging canopies, and self-shading devices.

While winter will allow skiing down Trojena’s slopes, during the rest of the year, visitors will be able to ski on the synthetic surface slopes, go mountain biking, take the zip line, and do other mountain sports.