Dezeen Magazine

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Eight mega-scale architecture projects underway in Saudi Arabia as the desert kingdom modernises

Saudi Arabia is modernising, with a succession of huge projects including Jeddah Tower, which will be the world's tallest building, either complete or underway. Following Dezeen's visit during the recent design week we take a look at eight huge projects in the desert kingdom.

Although Norman Foster suspended his role in a planned Saudi mega-city in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, projects by Snøhetta and Zaha Hadid Architects have already updated the face of the country.

Construction of giant architectural schemes within the kingdom is continuing, with the world's tallest building in Jeddah slated to open in 2020, and several major developments designed by Foster + Partners currently in progress.

Here are eight projects, some built and some in progress, that highlight Saudi Arabia's efforts to modernise its infrastructure:

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

King Abdullah Petroleum Studies Research Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects' King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre in the Saudi capital was completed last year.

The facility aims to attract international researchers to investigate the transition towards more sustainable power sources, as a non-profit independent institution, despite Saudi Arabia being one of the most oil-rich countries in the world.

The five interconnected buildings are designed with a hexagonal honeycomb structure, so that each can be expanded if the centre grows in the future.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Jeddah Tower by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Set to become the world's tallest building, the Jeddah Tower is currently under construction. It will stand at the heart of the Jeddah Economic City development of offices, residential apartments and shopping malls, designed to rival downtown downtown Dubai.

Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the skyscraper will be at least 1,000 metres when it completes in 2020, taking the title of world's tallest building from the 828 metre-tall (2,716 feet) Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects


Last year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to build a 10,000 square mile super city, entirely powered by renewable energy, and served by driverless vehicles. The first phase of construction is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Called Neom, the project will stretch across the northwest border of Saudi Arabia, into Jordan and Egypt. It is designed to operate as an independent economic trade zone with its own laws.

Norman Foster, who was previously on the 18-strong advisory board, suspended his work on the project in response to Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Jabal Omar Development by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners is designing a complex of stepped towers in Mecca to provide accommodation for the increasing number of pilgrims that are travelling to the world's largest mosque. The complex is due to be completed in 2022.

The project, located between the Haramain High-speed Rail Station and the Grand Mosque, is one of many large-scale hospitality projects overlooking the holy site, overseen by the Jabal Omar Development Company, over an area of more than two square kilometres.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture by Snøhetta

Snøhetta's King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in the city of Dhahran was completed in 2016. It contains 100,000 square metres of cultural facilities – including an auditorium, cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum and archive.

The exhibition hall has hosted collaborations with the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and LACMA, while the knowledge tower is designed to have 2,000 workshops annually, covering science, technology and maths.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Urban Heritage Administration Centre, by Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects is designing the Urban Heritage Administration Centre, a preservation centre for the UNESCO-protected Turaif district in Diriyah, the former home of the Saudi royal family. 

When it opens, at a currently non-specified date, the 8,780-square-metre building will contain facilities dedicated to protecting the archaeological sites of the historic oasis. The sites are found along the Wadi Hanifah river, that runs through a 75 mile-long valley to the west of Riyadh.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Makkah Museum, by Mossessian Architecture

London-based architects Mossessian Architecture is designing a museum of the Islamic faith in Mecca, which will be situated just over four miles from the holy site, with the aim of increasing the understanding of the Islamic faith amongst the millions of annual visitors.

It has not been specified when the building will be completed but the it will include 5,600 square metres of gallery space to host exhibitions related to the international history and practice of Islam and the life of Muhammad.

Eight Saudi Arabian mega-projects

Jeddah transport network by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners is designing an £8 billion transport system for Jeddah that will encompass a network of new metro, ferry, bus, and cycle terminals.

Aiming for completion in 2020, the project will take a "long-term and sustainable approach", extending the design to include public spaces for pedestrians.