The project’s centrepiece ‘tower’ nestles between the four other rock shaped buildings, with floors stretching above and below ground. Image: Snøhetta
The first layer of the facade system is formed of thin, reflective stainless steel tubes. Image: Snøhetta
Set against the backdrop of the Saudi desert, the Cultural Centre resembles a gleaming rock formation. Image: Saudi Aramco
King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Created to mark the 75th anniversary of the Saudi Aramco oil company, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture is a cultural first for Saudi Arabia. The Centre offers a range of specialised cultural, educational and youth leadership programmes and activities, to promote a positive impact on human development and culture within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The stunning design for the project is made up of five pebble-shaped buildings that, while separate and different volumes, are gathered together to resemble a rock mass. The complex geometry of the now iconic structures, as well as their location in the harsh environment of the Saudi desert, presented a number of challenges for the project team.
A further key objective was the need to deliver a project that would achieve LEED Gold despite the high external temperatures and sunlight. Our engineers needed to incorporate sustainable construction techniques such as efficient energy use and optimum building performance throughout to ensure that the building met its targets.
Working to release the vision of architects Snøhetta, BuroHappold Engineering concluded that the use of bespoke modelling programme Revit along with Building Information Management (BIM) software would offer the optimum solution.
In order to create the unique aesthetic for the facade, the architect wanted to use metal to clad the exterior rather than solutions such as ceramic tiles and glass, which were favoured by the client. The use of metal in an environment with such high temperatures created a number of issues with solar gain, meaning we had to give careful consideration as to how to prevent heat built up on the outer skin. The desert location also required the material to be resistant to sand abrasion, which would cause damage to the surface over time.
Following extensive analysis using dynamic thermal simulation and CFD software, we developed a cladding system that not only overcomes these challenges, but also helps lower building energy demands. The resulting facade solution comprises two main elements – an insulated weather-tight envelope that is wrapped by a feature shade veil. The thin, reflective stainless steel tubes that make up the feature veil shield the facade from the Saudi sun, and are pre-bent to fit the complex geometry of the five pebble shaped buildings. The tubes flatten near the windows to allow natural lighting into the internal spaces, while a ventilated air cavity purges any heat that builds up on these elements.
The project ensures the responsible and efficient use of water through various initiatives, including water efficient fittings and the installation of water meters to monitor the volume of water used. In addition to this, smart water controllers have been installed to schedule irrigation levels based on the local landscape and general weather conditions, and help to prevent over-watering and excessive run-off.
Bringing together engineering teams from across the globe and leading the way in BIM technologies and well as innovative multidisciplinary design, the new cultural centre is a showpiece for BuroHappold. The project represents the ambitions of a nation, demonstrating the very best in architectural and engineering design while offering an inspirational and bold environment.
Ground breaking project for Saudi Arabia promotes education in science, art and culture
Five stone shaped buildings house spaces including the Knowledge Tower, Great Hall, Energy Exhibit and Children’s Zone
Unique facades feature stainless steel tubes that wrap around the structures
Highly sustainable development designed to LEED Gold standards
Big Project Middle East Construction and Sustainability Awards 2016 – Winner of Award for Excellence in BIM Implementation
Client: Saudi Aramco
Completed: Completion expected in 2017
Services provided by BuroHappold: Building services engineering, structural engineering, ground engineering, facade engineering, fire engineering, infrastructure, acoustics, lighting, computational simulation and analysis, sustainability and alternative technologies