From vision to master planning to creation: How Saudi Arabia is building its future-eng

From vision to master planning to creation: How Saudi Arabia is building its future-eng

SAUDI Arabia has an opportunity to rewrite the rule book. Vision 2030 as unveiled by Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, is fundamentally helping to change the design of buildings in the Kingdom. And the Saudi market’s sheer size warrants the attention of the world.

Because of the sea change of transformation that is undergoing as part of Vision 2030, the country has an opportunity to tell the world how it wants to be perceived: the built environment will play a key role in crafting this perception. But whilst we see already how these opportunities are being realized in the architecture of Saudi, the approach to designing different buildings naturally must be treated with sensitivity. For example, the approach if you are building critical infrastructure projects such as schools or hospitals must be delivered on a practical and pragmatic level; requirement needs to be fit and appropriate for purpose of course.

On the other side, our work in Makkah in the King Abdul Aziz Road (KAAR) necessitates a completely different building typology, and a different requirement. Just as religious tourism is accelerating at pace, so too is the development of this new mega city, which in turn is being spurred on by the impetus that visitors to the Haj and Umrah are set to increase from 5 million to 30 million within a short time. This project is at the front line of the transformation of Saudi Arabia: it is at once modern, yet steeped in its religious and historical roots.

Fundamentally it is going from vision, to master planning to reality within a ten-year period, and this is very encouraging. Here we will see examples such as the King Abdullah Financial District, which is undergoing a huge rethink on how this development will be completed, where eventually we will see very modern buildings dominating the skyline, positioning it at the forefront of this new version of Saudi. Furthermore, with the expectation of more than three million square meters of space for various uses, 62,000 parking spaces and accommodation for 12,000 residents, the King Abdullah Financial District — already mooted as a host for the G20 summit in 2020 — will embody everything about the drive for modernity. Within this development as well, we also see the investment in infrastructure; railway networks and underground systems being developed, which is key to building these sustainable mega cities of the future.

Despite these very forward-thinking projects, here we also see the traditional meeting the modern — the heritage of the past meeting the ambition of the future — so managing these two dichotomies’ at once poses both a challenge and an opportunity to help this vision become a reality. And naturally the key principals of Saudi’s heritage are rooted in religion; and this is the real thread that runs through Vision 2030 of course.

So, whilst the big opportunities are in these new mega cities and resorts, we need to be mindful that the latest most modern thinking is sensitive to the requirements and are delivered on a macro socio-economic level. Creating contemporary design, which plays testament to tradition is absolute.

Architecture, of course is all about appropriateness: there are certain parameters that one needs to stick to. However, when we look at buildings like The Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, these are examples of buildings that transcend what they stand for; they create a buzz around them that not only makes them visually appealing to the eye, but it helps to change the social environment around them and in turn the country itself. Iconic projects like these draw in tourism, and we only have to look at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai to see how it has and continues to be a pull for tourism — people want to visit the city just to see this icon. Saudi Arabia of course is very much aware of this. With the country having one of the largest religious sites in the world, there is a clear opportunity to help build iconic projects in Saudi Arabia, which will act as force fields to attract tourism both for religious reasons and wider. In the future, we will see these projects come to fruition in Saudi Arabia as the ambitions for the country are realized.

Ultimately, we see Vision 2030 being accelerated on a grass roots level. It is creating the right developments for the population (and future populations) to exist. In bringing about this ‘change culture’, the opportunities within Saudi will create a blueprint for other new cities to follow. We are now at the beginning of that journey, as we align the latest thinking and techniques to accelerate this growth.


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