A new district in Riyadh is redefining the urban landscape of the Saudi capital. The King Abdullah Financial District is a cosmopolitan living and working space crafted by world-renowned architects and designers. Comprising 83 buildings with several high-rise towers and some skyscrapers, the plan was designed by the Henning Larsen group, though the project was led by several international architects. The construction of the King Abdullah Financial District began in 2006.
One of the major challenges in the overall design was to create a cool, comfortable urban environment. Henning Larsen sought inspiration in Riyadh’s historical quarter, developed in line with traditional Arabian building methods. Streets are oriented according to the prevailing winds, supporting the natural ventilation and cooling of the city.
It’s a real city within the city. A huge contrast between Saudi architectural identity and modern architecture.Deema Elkassim, architect
The designers planned the position of the buildings in the new district by example from Diriyah, the old town in Riyadh. This positioning guides the desert wind and sun through the district in an optimal way, creating a temperature drop of 8-10 degrees and thus a pleasant outdoor environment.
“A great success thanks to Henning Larsen’s support throughout the construction process,” said Waleed Aleisa, Chief Executive Officer and Project Manager at Al Ra’idah, the developer behind the project. “They brought detail and quality to the project, and that is generally missing in the Middle East.” King Abdullah Financial District will have a mix of attractive public spaces as well as retail, hospitality, residential, cultural, and commercial buildings. It is designed to meet the requirements of the international sustainability scheme, ‘Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’, LEED.
The guidelines for sustainable design and construction must be followed by the different international architects who design the individual buildings. They regulate conditions such as the water and energy consumption of the buildings, their use of materials, and their influence on the microclimate. The district is set to become the world’s largest green urban development project, and the world’s first LEED-certified urban district. “It’s a real city within the city,” architect Deema Elkassim told Travel Tomorrow. “A huge contrast between Saudi architectural identity and modern architecture.”
1. Al-Faisaliah Complex and Tower
The 240,000-square-meter Al Faisaliah Complex is centered around Saudi Arabia’s first skyscraper alongside a five-star hotel, a conference center, luxury apartments and a three-story retail mall. Designed by the well known British Architect firm, Foster + Partners, the Al-Faisaliah Tower is famous for being the first skyscraper built in Saudi Arabia. It is 267 meters high and has 55 floors.
“Square in plan, the building is designed around a compact central core which tapers to a point, with four main corner columns defining its unique silhouette,” the designers explain. “Punctuating stages up the building’s layered facade, observation decks correspond with giant K-braces, which transfer loads to the corner columns. Each section between these decks is clad in silver-anodized aluminum panels with cantilevered sun-shading, which minimize glare, allowing the use of non-reflective energy-efficient glass.” The tower is set back from the King Fahd Highway to create a landscaped plaza. A large hall can accommodate between 2,000 (private ceremonies) and 3,400 people (large conferences).
Shaped like an elongated pyramid, the tower is the fourth tallest in Saudi Arabia and ranks as the 325th tallest building in the world. The panoramic views of the city are stunning. The tower is notable for the enormous glass globe located near the top. The globe measures 24 meters in diameter and is composed of 655 glass panels.
The complex includes the five star Al Faisaliah Hotel, a children’s amusement park, and high-quality restaurants such as LPM Riyadh, Meraki, Entrecote Cafe de Paris. La Brasserie serves high-quality international dishes and has outdoor seating areas with one of the most beautiful views. The famous Yauatcha Riyadh, a fine Chinese restaurant, is located in the Mode Mall.
2. The Globe
Located in the spectacular golden sphere that tops Al Faisaliah Tower, The Globe offers panoramic views of the city. Within this dramatic three-story dome, modern European cuisine and world-class service come together to create an unmatched, fine dining experience. It is is one of the most unique and sought-after restaurants in Riyadh.
“Our globe has three floors with a lounge and restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner,” Rami Mousa Hasan, director of The Globe told Travel Tomorrow. “We have a terrace where you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Riyadh.” Guests can choose from a wide variety of cold and warm appetizers such as Ricotta tahini, Bluefin tuna, Seared scallops, truffled potato soup. Some of the main dishes include Wagyu Beef tenderloin, Australian lamb loin and shoulder, roasted poussin chicken, Norwegian salmon, among others. The Globe offers both a dinner menu as well as high tea on weekend. Dinner is available from 7:00 pm to 11:30 pm on weekdays, and from 8:00 pm to 11:30 pm on weekends. High Tea is offered from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.