HKS-designed Diriyah venue hallmark heritage


Diriyah Arena revealed Image: HKS

The Saudi giga project developer Diriyah Company announced on March 13th the concept design for ‘The Arena in Diriyah’, which forms part of the $63.2 billion Diriyah masterplan in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

‘’ stated that the concept design 20,000-seat multipurpose sports, entertainment and cultural venue were executed by the London-based HKS Architects.

The above announcement was made at the Marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier (MIPIM) event in Cannes, France.

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)-based the Diriyah Company is a company that was established in 2022 to develop the Diriyah project in Saudi Arabia. The project is a major part of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and aims to make Diriyah a global destination that reflects the Saudi heritage.

Diriyah Arena revealedImage: HKS

The company’s mission is to develop the Diriyah Project and re-establish it as a globally significant destination. The project is centered on the At-Turaif District, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, and is intended to be the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s heritage and history.

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)-based the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. It is among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world with total estimated assets of US$776 billion. It was created in 1971 for the purpose of investing funds on behalf of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

Paris (France)-based the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations with the aim of promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences, and culture.

Diriyah Arena revealedImage: HKS

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a cultural or natural landmark that is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having “Outstanding Universal Value”. These sites are important across generations and countries, and are considered to be unique, or the best examples of the world’s natural and/or cultural heritage. The UNESCO protects these sites through the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Dallas (US)-based the HKS Architects is an American architecture firm that offers commercial, civil and industrial architectural design services. The HKS Architects is known for creating places that are beautiful and perform well, and for its belief that design should build trust between clients, collaborators and people who live in the spaces they design. HKS Architects’ services include construction schematics, structural engineering and graphics.

Mark A. Williams, Global Director of Venues, HKS, US, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

The London studio of HKS is the hub for the firm’s projects in the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Diriyah Arena revealedImage: HKS

The Marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier (MIPIM) is a four-day real estate event that takes place in Cannes, France, in March. It’s considered the world’s property market and the first real estate show in the world. The MIPIM brings together the most influential players from all international property sectors, including the delegates, investors, industry leaders, and young professionals. The event also provides access to the development projects and capital sources worldwide.

‘’ further stated that located in the heart of The City of Earth (read Diriyah), the 76,000 square meter Arena aims to establish itself as the premier venue in the Middle East, serving as a tourism hallmark, drawing visitors from across the globe and completely transforming the region’s events landscape.

Informed Jerry Inzerillo, Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Diriyah Company, “The Arena in Diriyah is a cornerstone element of our mission to blend tradition with innovation. It exemplifies Diriyah’s unique lifestyle offering that harmonizes the community, culture and the natural connection, setting a new standard for the world-class destinations rooted in Saudi heritage.”

Added Alex Thomas, HKS Architects Lead Architect, “We are exceptionally proud to be a part of this project. The architecture rises from the landscape as a series of monoliths, evoking local geological formations and alluding to the ancient Nadji forts (the ancient palaces and forts that have inspired the architecture of Saudi Arabia) and palaces that have animated and lit ‘digital waterfalls’. The visual energy of the waterfalls serves as a beacon, drawing guests to the dynamic experience inside.”

Diriyah Arena revealedImage: HKS

Inspired by the natural geology surrounding Diriyah and capturing the traditional Najdi architecture motif spanning centuries of heritage, the venue will possess the ability to seamlessly transition between different configurations within hours, offering the flexibility to host various events in quick succession. Its state-of-the-art design will ensure exceptional acoustics and optimal viewing angles from every seat.

Versatile Venue

‘’ stated that this uniquely versatile venue promises an extended entertainment experience, with direct and convenient access to a vibrant shopping and dining district in Diriyah’s greater community. Adjacent to the Arena in Diriyah will be the Plaza, an outdoor venue for live performances, pop-up shows and an urban park for the residents and the visitors alike.

The Arena in Diriyah will be one of Diriyah’s iconic assets and integral to the unprecedented Diriyah masterplan, aimed at enhancing Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scene in alignment with the Saudi Vision 2030.

‘’ further stated that this venue champions a lifestyle that is authentically Saudi, offering a harmonious blend of heritage and innovation, and fostering community engagement through world-class events that stimulate tourism and economic growth.

The Saudi Vision 2030 is a Government program launched by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which aims to achieve the goal of increased diversification economically, socially and culturally, in line with the vision of the Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

The Challenge

‘HKS’ stated that wanting to attract people to congregate and celebrate at the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Diriyah, the City of Earth – the Diriyah Gate Company Limited challenged HKS to create a technologically advanced, globally significant arena that is a timeless representation of its place, geology and culture.

The Design Solution

The Arena in Diriyah is designed for the residents of the Kingdom and the visitors alike – for all who want to connect with the Najdi culture (a traditional architectural feature in Saudi Arabia) and its architectural heritage. The HKS’ design builds upon this legacy while setting the stage for a healthy, resilient, digital future. The design team embedded international best practices, innovative technologies and high-performance energy targets into the project.

‘HKS’ further stated that every guest of the Arena in Diriyah will enjoy the highest caliber entertainment experience. Interior designers conducted extensive user research to connect with the local audience. The arena is designed to host myriad events, and quickly transforms to accommodate events ranging from intimate concerts to major international sporting events.

The Design Impact

Architecture and design play a key role in connecting people to a place and to one another. The Arena in Diriyah will unite people in a shared sense of cultural experience and offer a harmonious blend of heritage and innovation while stimulating tourism and economic growth.

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