Riyadh and urban development

The rise and urban development of Riyadh and its rise as an urban center began in 1824, a city of the twentieth century. It has grown from an area of ​​one square kilometer and has a population of 14,000 in 1902 to an area of ​​1,500 square kilometers and a population of 4,300,000 people in 2000.

Riyadh experienced a massive construction boom during the 1970s and 1980s as a result of high oil prices in the 1970s. At the time, Newsweek described Riyadh as “the largest construction site in human history.” In fact, during the decade 1977 to 1986, an average of 11,500 building permits were issued in Riyadh each year.

One of the pioneering projects that affected the development of architecture in Riyadh. Buildings of the General Organization for Social Insurance, which was constructed in two phases. The first phase of this project, which was designed by the Saudi consulting firm Imran and Co., was completed around 1973. It appears that this stage of the project was affected by the Boston City Council Building (1963-1968). In 1982, the second phase of the project was constructed to include a three-story building connected to the original building on two levels, from the first and second floors. The long side of the second stage building was placed opposite the original building. A reflective glass curtain wall has been applied to most of the facade located along the long side of the building. The curtain wall acts as a mirror that provides a reflection of the first stage building. The curtain wall is crowned with sun-shading devices similar to the one at the top of the first-floor building. The south facade of the second stage building is basically solid, and simple shading devices were applied to the window openings on the western facade of the building.

الرياض والتطور العمراني

Also among the pilot projects is the main offices of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency for the year 1978, which were designed by the famous American architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). Its main façade is dominated by solar shading devices, which extend along the height of the building.

The six-storey Saudi Development Fund building in 1980, designed by Urban and Coile International. , This building offers two important features. The first is that it took the traditional concept of introverted residence in Riyadh. Accordingly, the designer Atrium developed a center with a glass roof around which the building spaces were laid. The second feature is the designer application of architectural vocabulary common to the traditional architecture of Riyadh and include these cracked windows, from which the upper windows are crowned with slanted square shaped slots. The designers have also incorporated some decorative openings into the building’s parapet. The designers of this building launched an approach to illustrate the façade that was later adopted by a number of architects working in Riyadh.

The King Faisal Foundation in 1982 (known as the Charity Complex) designed by pioneering Japanese architect Kenzo Tang. The charity complex includes an office building, apartment building, shopping mall, auditorium, and mosque. The complex contains two identical high-rise buildings, which are in outline form and are located on top of each other at a distance that is blocked by two bridges located on top of each other at the top of the buildings. The façades of the two triangular bases, one facing north and the other south, are covered with glass curtain walls. The remaining interfaces are mostly solid. The distance between the tops of the two triangular buildings frame the mosque of the complex. Both the dome and minaret of the mosque are from the traditional genres. Consequently, the traditional dome was replaced by a more or less hollow cylindrical element segmented from the top to serve as a roof window inside the mosque, and the traditional dome was replaced by a simple tall pillar-like element.


Other important buildings built in Riyadh during the 1980s include the Institute of Public Administration, designed by the American company The Architects Collaborative (TAC), the King Khalid International Airport 1983 designed by the American company Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum (HOK), and the 1984 campus of King University Saud. The university’s master plan and conceptual urban design was prepared in the 1970s, but more advanced stages in project design were later implemented by HOK in cooperation with the Four Companies Association for Design, Engineering, and Construction Management. The university plan includes two main pillars, in which the different colleges are arranged. The two columns meet at the university’s forum, which is the central space around which buildings such as administration, library, and hall are located. Educational buildings are three storeys high.

The mid-1980s represented a new awareness in Riyadh about architecture and building construction. For one reason, a number of Arab and Saudi architects have begun to play a greater major role in the city’s architectural development. These architects were inspired by the local architectural heritage in Riyadh, and aims to develop new architecture that mixes old and new.

Among the prominent architects of that period is Basem al-Shihabi, Director of Omrania and Company. Al-Shihabi, designer in the 1970s (along with Eng. Nabil Fanous belonging to Omrania), Al-Shihabi designed buildings for the headquarters of the Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States in Riyadh.

Tuwaiq Palace is a place for government jobs including official receptions, conferences and cultural festivals. It also includes some leisure facilities, such as indoor and outdoor sports fields, parks and landscapes. The project succeeded in connecting the past and the present. The project structure consists of reinforced concrete, limestone-covered exterior walls, and the structure of large-sized white-colored tents and tents made of Teflon fiber fabric. Tuwaiq Palace received the 1998 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

A number of international architects quickly participated in the efforts made by Arab and Saudi architects to absorb the character of local architecture in Najdi and introduce it as part of the new architecture in Riyadh. Among the projects that have made important contributions in this regard, the King Fahd Stadium, which was completed in 1987.

Read also: Mosque design architectural elements

The British firm, Ian Fraser, John Roberts and his partners, designed the stadium as an international football stadium for about 70,000 fans. The roof pitch construction consists of a number of tent-coated fiberglass units supported by cables.

The most recent buildings and towers in Riyadh are Al-Faisaliah Complex and Kingdom Tower. The Al-Faisaliah Tower, which is 267 meters high, designed by the famous British architect Norman Foster & Co., was completed in 2000, the tallest building in Saudi Arabia upon completion. The structure, which has a square diagram tending to lanterns at the top, has many functions like a five-star hotel, offices, and a mall. However, it was taken over by the 300-meter-high Kingdom Center Tower, which was designed by Omrania and Partners in cooperation with the American company Ellerbe Becket. The Kingdom Tower includes an oval tower that ends from the top in an equivalent opening. Multiple-use tower houses, five-star hotel, offices, stores, underground parking and facilities. It is clear that both buildings leave from the architectural and urban model oriented towards tradition to the global model.

The architectural projects in Riyadh are endless, and the size of the huge urbanization and creative development in design, which is the focus of the Saudi architects is almost inexhaustible, to the present day and even in the future, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will remain the focus of the architects aspiring to develop and excellence.

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