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Saudi Arabian Architecture, Part 2 of 2



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To uphold the country’s rich and illustrious culture, the Saudi Arabian government has encouraged the preservation of construction and design methods of the past. Vernacular architecture, which is characterized by the indigenous building style of using sustainably sourced local materials, can still be seen across the western region of Hejaz in the major cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia invites talented architects and skilled workers from across the world in an effort to create some of the most beautiful architectural masterpieces. The Al-Rajhi Mosque in the city of Haʼil is one of the country’s most beautiful and technologically advanced mosques. It took three years for about 500 workers to build this beautiful place of worship dedicated to the Beloved Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him.

As large-scale, sophisticated, and technologically advanced building projects sweep through Saudi Arabia, we see a clear shift to a modern architectural style, using materials such as steel and glass and combining the emphasis on functionality with clean, minimalistic looks. Modern Arabian architecture focuses on open, column-free spaces, leading to a sense of integration with nature. The effects of the direction of sun and shadow are studied to maximize cooling during summer and heating during winter. The modern elements harmoniously blend with the local climate condition and traditional culture, making Saudi Arabia a true architecture pioneer.

Norwegian Architectural group Snøhetta has taken a very unique approach with their design of the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, also known as Ithra. This 100,000-square-meter structure, opened in 2017 in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, took nine years to complete. The mission of Ithra is “knowledge, creativity, and cross-cultural engagement.”

Let’s now take a look at one of the most interesting architectural projects planned for Saudi Arabia’s future - the city of Neom, commissioned by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The Neom project is part of Saudi Vision 2030, to expand the country’s economy in the arts, culture, tourism, and recreation fields. The idea behind the net-zero megacity of Neom, is to construct a technologically advanced metropolis that is 100% sustainable, with only public transportation as a means of travel.
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