SAUDI ARABIA / DAMMAM
Knowledge and Culture Center
Saudi Oger starts construction of cultural centre
by CW Staff on Sep 17, 2010
Saudi Oger has begun foundation work for the ambitious King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture in Dhahran in the Eastern province of the Kingdom.
Saudi Oger, the main contractor for the project, has been on site for several months, excavating and preparing the site for the first foundation pour this past week
The Centre was designed by Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, which was awarded the design work after winning an international competition that included top-tier Saudi and international design firms.
“The commencement of the Center’s construction is a proud moment for us,” said Nasser A. Al-Nafisee, general manager of Saudi Aramco Public Affairs.
“For over 75 years, Saudi Aramco has been committed to making significant contributions toward the betterment of the nation, and the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture will be one of the most visible and creative manifestations of that commitment, extending not just to the people of the Kingdom, but around the world.”
The striking design is mean to resemble a collection of glossy pebbles stacked in the desert. The five connected buildings – each with their own unique function and structural geometry – contain an auditorium, library, theatre, exhibition hall, museum and children’s centre.
Buro Happold devised the innovative post-tension concrete system to provide support for this non-traditional cantilevered structure.
King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture
Damman - Saudi Arabia
In celebration of Saudi Aramco Oil Company’s 75th Anniversary, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture seeks to be a breathtaking tribute to the
founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz. Located on Dammam Dome, the awe-inspiring structure will stand alongside the site of Prosperity
Well No.7 which was the first well in the nation to yield oil in commercial quantities.
Conceptualized by the Norwegian architects in Snøhetta (behind Oslo Opera House and Bibliotheca Alexandrina), winner of the invitational architectural design
competition held by the Saudi authorities, the bold new structure has a featured construction budget of $300,000,000 and upon completion in 2012, will be used
to promote cultural development within the kingdom with its multiple facilities like a world-class library with a café-like atmosphere and digital access to
information and connectivity to knowledge centers spread across the world.
Project description by Snøhetta
| Situated in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the new Cultural Center will be sited at the heart of
the oil fields that have been central to the formation and development of the Kingdom. This initiative to promote the development of culture and knowledge in
Saudi Arabia is undertaken by the Saudi Aramco oil company as part of their 75th anniversary celebrations and is particularly relevant in the context of the
Saudi Arabian demographic with a very large young population, thirsting for cultural programs.
The Center has a total area of over 70,000 square meters hosting the following program: a Library of some 200,000 books; a 930 seat Auditorium; a 315 seat
Cinema; The Great Hall, a high quality multifunctional space; a Museum; a Life-Long Learning Centre; a Children’s Discovery Zone and all necessary support
functions including an Administration Area. The conceptual theme for the project is derived from the idea of cultural Interdependency in space, time and context.
The idea of culture extends both back in time, searching for historical roots, and reaches into the future to new possibilities. This theoretical time line connecting
past present and future is embedded in the architecture: partially dug deep into the rock and partially stretching 86 meters up toward the sky. The concept of
cultural interdependency is at the heart of the building’s spatial organization. Each element of the building is given its own discrete and recognizable form as a
“pebble”; however, these individual pieces are put together in such a manner that they visually and physically support each other. No single object can be
removed without the collapse of the larger composition. Culture is not a collection of singular independent efforts but a collective ensemble of interacting forces
and ideas that together create a context. Culture in Saudi Arabia is about individual character belonging to, and contributing to a group. The many architectural
elements each have their own character, logic and aesthetic while at the same time adhering to the overall conceptual theme.
The physical and spiritual heart of the project is an area referred to as the Source, around which all of the other elements are arranged. Placed three floors down
into the bedrock, the Source is a metaphor for the Source of Arabian wealth to be found in the oil fields deep beneath the building. The Source also provides the
physical setting for the roots of Saudi Arabian culture displayed in the museum that spirals down around it.
The 4000 square meter Plaza is the entrance space for all of the cultural components. It is conceived as an urban space providing a setting for the many visitors
and the cultural events in the building. In the vertical time line through the building, the Plaza is at grade level between the sunken museum and the elevated
pebbles. It lies between the past and the future, representing the present. Surrounding all four sides of the Plaza is a ring wall constructed of rammed earth. This
wall binds the urban plaza together with a visual element that is constructed from the very earth on which the building rests; a direct reference to Saudi cultural
roots and the context of the Center itself.
All of the projects elements that are elevated out of the landscape and into the sky refer to the future and are clad in a reflective tubular metal skin. The metal is
the counterpoint to the rammed earth wall; it is man-made, futuristic and reflective of the strong Arabian sun. The tubes are wrapped around the shapes of the
pebbles, flowing from a predetermined starting point around the objects in a manner that creates a unique but related pattern to each of the pebbles. This tubular
system provides for virtually 100% passive solar shading of the project’s enclosure.
The setting for the Cultural Center is a man-made landscape using minimal methods of maintenance, and sustainability known as “xeriscaping”. This area called the
Monosurface is planted with vegetation indigenous to the desert region, requiring a minimum of irrigation. Walkways are interwoven with the planting to provide a
natural setting for social gathering during the pleasant winter days or under the starlit Arabian night sky.
Work on the construction of the Cultural Center will commence in August 2010; and the project is due to be completed by the end of 2012.
• Video Link
The tower will be 86m tall. There will be a sky lounge at the top floor.
Exterior renderings again, both new and old.
Some plans and sections. Credit (Snøhetta) must be used upon use.
Copyright@ Snøhetta View large file
(4000x4041 pixels | 3Mb)
This is a picture of some of the façade tests. I cannot confirm if this is was the final façade though, but it can be.
King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture, Located on Dammam Dome,
the futuristic structure will stand alongside the site of Prosperity Well No.7 which was
the first well in the nation to yield oil in commercial quantities.
Between 1982 and 2004 I participated in many architectural competitions.
In 2007-08, as an Operations Director, I successfully organized and managed all phases of the $700 million USD (55,000 sq.m.)
international architectural competition for the Saudi Aramco. The SA Cultural Center
- called: the King Abdulaziz Centre for Knowledge and Culture -
project has been chosen by the SA Chairman and the Board of Directors to commemorate the 75th Aramco Anniversary.
The SACC, Saudi Aramco's 75th anniversary gift to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been specially designed to create an
iconic state-of-the-art facility that will further inspire and promote the knowledge economy, creativity and cross-cultural
engagement within Saudi Arabia and the region.
Dammam - Al Khobar area, Saudi Arabia; Project value: $700 million.
Final 3 day Jury Review at Saudi Aramco, Dhahran
J. Gruzewski (PM Director) presents site and explains competition rules to 6 semifinalists
Zaha Hadid Architects from London placed Second - model above
Winner Announcing Award Meeting in Saudi Aramco HO
Lines in the sand
The King Abdulaziz Center for Knowledge and Culture resembles a rock mass in the desert (top).
Streamlines generated using Ansys CFX trace the path and speed of particles moving across and around the building.
Different colors refer to varying velocity levels, which are greatest at the building’s corners.
The white areas represent wells where wind shadows would likely form (below).