RIYADH: Continuing their efforts to preserve significant aspects of Saudi heritage, the Ministry of Culture has released a short documentary film highlighting the beauty and architectural prowess of one of the country’s most incredible buildings, Tuwaiq Palace.
The 10-minute video, which can be viewed on the ministry’s Twitter account, features a look at the history of the palace, insights into the design process and sweeping views of the building that will mesmerize those who have never seen the palace’s interior before.
The building has long been considered an architectural marvel and a city landmark. Built in 1985 and located in the Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh, Tuwaiq Palace is the award-winning lovechild of a collaboration between Saudi design company Omrania, German architect Frei Otto (Germany), and British services firm Buro Happold.
Basem Al-Shihabi, Omrania’s managing director since 1973, talks in the film about the history of the design process and explains why the building stands out from others in its category.
“The appeal of Tuwaiq Palace lies in its design — the harmony between the interior and the exterior. The dimensions, and the way the materials juxtapose and come together. And the variations in the height of the ceilings versus the depth of the floors from one section to another,” he said.
The 24,000-square-meter building is equipped for recreational, social, dining, banqueting, conference, and accommodation functions, a favorite of ambassadors and foreign dignitaries for the celebration of their countries’ national and independence day celebrations, and is even available for weddings.
Saudi architect Mai Alkhaldi told Arab News that the building is “visually stunning,” and that no other Saudi architectural landmark has quite the same visual appeal.
“It’s not an ordinary building; it’s extraordinary. The shapes, the structure, and of course, the wall. Over three decades old and the structure is still as amazing as ever,” she said.
“The wall” refers to the 800-meter-long “Living Wall,” which winds on itself and wraps around the palace’s lush garden. Five tensile structure “tents” cover sports facilities and distinct landscaping in the inner gardens and outer spaces generated by the winding wall, giving the palace its unique shape and structure.
According to the co-designers at Omrania, the palace was designed to touch on two local archetypes, the fortress and the tent, and incorporate the natural phenomenon of the oasis.
“Much of development in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s was based on glossy western building models. Tuwaiq Palace is a bold departure from that trend, touching instead upon easily understood signals from past desert civilizations. This reinterpretation is a daring confrontation with and successful marriage of tradition and high tech,” says the company’s website.
As the building turns 35 years old this year, many Saudis consider Tuwaiq Palace to be unmatched among Saudi landmarks. Alkhaldi is no exception to this.
“Tuwaiq is such a unique building. Every part of it is different, yet all of it comes together so beautifully. Nothing else can really compare. Not truly,” she said.