Olaya Metro Station

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The Riyadh Metro is an urban mass transit system in Saudi Arabia, costing approximately $22.5 billion. This infrastructure initiative consists of six metro lines that run through 85 stations using nearly 110 miles of track.

Buro Happold is delivering two of the three main stations designated as landmarks of iconic architecture and design: the King Abdullah Financial District Metro Station and the Olaya Metro Station. These impactful structures symbolise a bold programme that will boost mobility for the flourishing Saudi Arabian capital.

The Olaya Metro Station is a complex multidisciplinary project that will establish a major transportation hub while creating a peaceful public garden. Occupying a prominent central location, this development is set above the intersection of two underground railway lines.

The building, conceived by renowned architects Gerber Architekten, is a refined combination of form and function. Inspired by the desert landscape, the station is a well- proportioned and efficient gateway with all the amenities of a major transport hub.

Inside the station there are four levels extending 30 metres below ground. This space contains one rail platform that crosses under another. The above ground area accommodates food courts and a shopping mall in keeping with a scheme that employs open views and natural light to enable easy wayfinding.

As lead consultant, Buro Happold coordinated the architecture and the engineering design for this prestigious site. This was undertaken along with landscaping, externals, and cost planning, as well as RAMS (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety) studies.


Olaya Metro Station is a major capital works project involving a complex web of stakeholders. Design strategies had to integrate the retail concourse, road transport links – including a bus terminal – and the park. Supplementing this challenge, the station design required interfacing with complex rail transit systems.

The fire strategy required close attention because project-specific elements of approvals exceeded Saudi Civil Defence norms. This process involved additional layers of review as well as line-wide coordination on key items that went beyond typical National Fire Protection Association/Saudi Building Code compliance.

Directing the flow of people and future proofing the station to accommodate increases in demand were also concerns. Peak, off-peak and special event scenarios all had to be considered to ensure a safe and comfortable passenger experience.


Numerous interfaces with multiple subsystem designers each required coordination and integration into the overall design. This ranged from physical
interfaces for the rolling stock and structures to detailed MEP coordination interfaces for items such as tunnel ventilation systems and signalling.
Through the project’s interface process, items were identified, developed and reflected in the final integrated design documentation.

Our designs were fully coordinated with all subsystems. This ensured clear understanding between Buro Happold and the subsystem designers, which resolved integration issues prior to construction, commissioning and operation of the railway. Where the interfaces related to safety, our engineers adopted Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS) processes.

Buro Happold was responsible for efficiently taking fire strategy through stakeholder review and approval. Design drawings and overall strategy could then be presented to Civil Defence.

Working closely with the client, our experts defined a construction sequence and groundwater control regime that eliminated all tension piles from the inherited reference design. This expertise yielded significant savings. Similarly, value engineering and efficient space planning allowed costly subterranean space to be reduced.

Our people flow modelling capability reduced internal floor area and ticket gates, which saved overall building costs for the same passenger flow. We were also able to ‘stress test’ the station to demonstrate capacity and resilience in forecast scenarios.

Exterior view Olaya Transfer Station
Situated in the centre between the two main urban hubs of King Fahad Road and Olaya Street, Olaya Metro Station is part of an ambitious project to transform Riyadh’s metro system. Image: Gerber


The unique design of the station forms a clearly recognisable landmark on Riyadh’s most prestigious strip, which is equally as inspired and impactful as Riyadh’s other building icons, such as the Faisaliah Tower and Kingdom Tower.

Buro Happold led a multi-disciplinary international design team to help realise the client’s ambitious design intent and successfully deliver a complex building in a busy urban environment.

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