Saudia Arabia is thinking big. A $500 billion project unveiled last year known as “NEOM” was dubbed a megacity and now, increasing by a factor of 1,000, Qiddiya, a new entertainment, sports, and arts venue, is being marketed as a “giga-project.” Twenty-one architects have been tapped to work on the project so far, including nine US firms: H.O.K., Populous, Arquitectonica, Morphosis, Asymptote, 5+, CallisonRTKL, Rossetti Architects and Rockwell Group.
The London office of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is master planning the site, meanwhile, other practices will contribute to projects within the 130 square mile site, a third of which will be developed on. WilkinsonEyre, Mangera Yvars Architects, Steve Chilton Architects, from London; Coop Himmelb(l)au from Germany; 10 Design from Hong Kong and local studios Dar Al Omran and X Architects comprise the remaining architects involved. Securing that many architects of reputable caliber will be considered a scoop considering the news last year that Sir Norman Foster, Carlo Ratti, and other leading design professionals withdrew their support for the NEOM project in the wake alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Qiddiya Investment Company is backing the project, which will be located 28 miles outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital. In a press release, the firm said BIG’s plans were “constructed with careful consideration to the natural patterns that have been etched on the site throughout history, giving rise to a green-belt network carrying visitors throughout the property on roads, bike paths, and walkways built within an enhanced landscape environment.”
Speaking to AN, Qiddiya’s chief executive Michael Reininger said the area “will become Saudi’s capital for entertainment, sports, and the arts.”
The average summer daytime temperature is 113 degrees Fahrenheit. “The climate in Riyadh remains quite hot for four to five months, and our master plan was designed accordingly,” Reininger said in response. “Buildings and spaces will be created ensuring there are sufficient shaded areas for the comfort of our visitors. We will introduce water and air movement to create micro-climates where temperatures can be controlled.”
Within BIG’s proposals, five “zones” have been planned: The “resort core” will boast a car racing circuit, a Six Flags amusement park, an ice arena, and retail and dining facilities; A golf residential and community zone will offer two golf courses, equestrian facilities, a hotel, and 20 villas; An “eco zone” will offer luxury tents, the chance to spot wildlife and go hiking, and zip-lining among other outdoor activities (of which golf is included again); a “motion zone” will basically let visitors drive cars very fast, as the area will supply another racing track, this time part of a private racing resort, along with a high-speed loop for cars where “customers can discover their own cars’ max speeds,” and an off-road area. Finally, Qiddiya’s “City Center” will boast an aquatic center, multiplex cinema, two stadiums a bicycle velodrome, sports school, mosque, and performing arts center.
All the aforementioned amenities and more will be designed by the architects involved, though who will design what has yet to be finalized.
It is hoped that by 2030, the resort will attract 17 million visitors annually. According to the Architects’ Journal, $30 million is spent every year by Saudis outside Saudi Arabia, something Qiddiya aims to cash in on.