In 2007, the Norwegian architecture studio Snøhetta won the competition to design a centre destined for the promotion and development of culture in Saudi Arabia. Promoted by the world’s largest oil company, the Saudi Arabian company Aramco, the King Abdulaziz Center opened on December 1, 2017. A year later, Time magazine included it in the list of the 100 best places in the world to visit.
The complex was located in the city of Dhahran, next to the symbolic “prosperity well”, where oil was first found in the Arab state. It occupies 80,000 m2 and is formed by five volumes. The main building is a central tower that reaches 90 m in height. It includes a library, a higher education centre, a business incubator, a cultural museum and another children’s museum, an event hall for congresses and exhibitions, an auditorium for concerts and a 900-seat theatre, and a conference and cinema room for 300 people.
The buildings were covered with a skin composed of 9.9 mm thick stainless steel tubes, connected to each other in a way that gives continuity, with a total length of 350 km. These steel tubes are fixed to the vertical structure by means of aluminium rails and titanium brackets. The coating or skin gently reflects the sun’s rays and gives the whole structure a polished appearance, rounded as if by the erosion of the wind and sand, which resembles boulders deposited in the middle of the desert. A clear allusion to the geology of the place in which it is integrated.
Sources: Arquitectura y empresa, Detail, Wikipedia, Time. Pictures: King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture façade (CC BY-SA 4.0 – AhmadElq)