Snøhetta create 'extroverted and introverted' cultural landmark for Saudi Arabia

Each room has a very distinct feeling, so when you're inside the design speaks to the identity of both you and the space
– Tae-Young Yoon, project manager

International architects Snøhetta have “blended extroversion and introversion” in their design for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia; the very first project of its kind in the kingdom.

Project manager Tae-Young Yoon told CLAD that the studio’s biggest challenge was creating both a landmark and a building that “speaks to each individual person” who visits it.

“The extrovert part derives from what people want and expect architects to do for a project of this scale and quality,” he said. “Everybody wants an icon, and that by nature is extroverted. In this respect the project achieved, I think, a strong impression within the context – and abstracted arch form evoking a collection of reddish rocks, including the central Keystone, bound into the landscape.”

Yoon explained that the introversion comes from the interior layout, where the centre’s museum and archive are located below ground and grouped around an inner void, looking inwards.

“Throughout the building we’ve introduced inner skins, different configurations, different patterns,” he said. “Each room has a very distinct feeling, so when you're inside the design speaks to the identity of both you and the space. We thought about how each person can have a different experience, depending on which path you choose to navigate through the building.”

The centre will feature 45,000sq m of diverse cultural facilities, including a 930-capacity auditorium and concert hall, a 30,000 book library, exhibition spaces, a banqueting venue and Saudi Arabia’s first cinema. The development is being funded by the Saudi Aramco oil company – widely believed to be the world’s most valuable fir, – near its headquarters in eastern city Dhahran. The organisation has pledged to offer both its employees and the the surrounding community with technologically advanced cultural experiences – the type of which are currently rare in the country.

Yoon said: “Aramco were running a summer school for local kids, which was all about culture and learning. This took place in large tents, and they wanted something more permanent. We wanted to create a sense of the past – recognising the roots of society and the history of this land, where the country’s first oil wells were discovered – and also its future as a home for learning. We gave material and form to this simple and generous concept.”

Snøhetta were selected to design the project following an invited architectural design competition in 2007. The building – one of CLAD's top leisure buildings to look out for in 2017 – is expected to open in the next few months.

Saudi Arabia  Snøhetta  King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture  Saudi Aramco Oil Company  Dhahran  architecture  design 
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International architects Snøhetta have “blended extroversion and introversion” in their design for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Saudi Arabia; the very first project of its kind in the kingdom. Project manager Tae-Young Yoon told CLAD that the studio’s biggest challenge was creating both a landmark and a building that “speaks to each individual person” who visits it. “The extrovert part derives from what people want and expect
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The centre takes an abstracted arch form, evoking a collection of reddish rocks, including the central Keystone, / King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture
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