RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to build its own version of France’s world-famous Champs-Elysees, in historic Diriyah.
The Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s chief executive officer, Jerry Inzerillo, announced plans for the ambitious project during the Saudi-French Strategic Partnership for Designing Sustainable Cities for Tomorrow tour in Riyadh.
He said: “The Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) wanted to connect the cultural identity and the heritage of Diriyah Gate 1 to the university (King Saud University) in Diriyah Gate 2, thereby connecting the Kingdom’s past and its present with its future.
“That connection point allows us to build a new boulevard and the crown prince is someone who loves France.
“Who doesn’t love the Champs-Elysees? He has been very motivated by it, and he said he would like to have our own Diriyah version of the Champs-Elysees giving honor to the French but not copying them. We have our own culture, we have our own heritage, and we have our own history,” Inzerillo added.
It is envisaged the avenue will include a contemporary art museum, convention center, opera house, and mosques along its route.
The new project was discussed during the second edition of the Saudi-French architecture tour that aims to strengthen cooperation between French architects and some of the major projects taking place in the Kingdom, including the DGDA scheme. The tour directly links French architects to the leaders of major projects, such as Inzerillo.
Diriyah’s own Champs-Elysees Boulevard will fall under the Diriyah Gate 2 project but full details on the scale of the project have yet to be released. According to the authority the project is still in its early stages and has yet to be given an official name.
• The new project was discussed during the second edition of the Saudi-French architecture tour that aims to strengthen cooperation between French architects and some of the major projects taking place in the Kingdom, including the DGDA scheme.
• The boulevard will fall under the Diriyah Gate 2 project but full details on the scale of the project have yet to be released. According to the authority the project is still in its early stages and has yet to be given an official name.
Inzerillo said: “Diriyah is very special, soon the silhouettes of Al-Saud palace which was the image of the G20 will be known all over the world the same way people take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
“I assure you a few years from now no one will come to the Kingdom, and no one will come to Riyadh, without taking a picture in front of the palaces of At-Turaif and Diriyah.
“Diriyah’s own Champs-Elysees Boulevard is a future project that draws its structural inspiration from France while paying tribute to the Kingdom’s heritage.
“The height and the width will be similar to Paris’ Champs-Elysees which I believe is 1.9 kilometers.”
Inzerillo highlighted some of the different features that will be a part of the new boulevard.
“The Saudi contemporary art museum will be on that boulevard. That will be our homage to the Louvre (museum in Paris).
“Also on that boulevard will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia convention center, opera house, the Grand Mosque in addition to the King Salman mosque.
“We are now 97 percent done with the design of what we call Diriyah Gate 1, and we are very advanced in Diriyah Gate 2 and will be starting the design of Diriyah Gate 3 soon in addition to the 60-kilometer Wadi Safar development.
“We are working on over two-dozen contracts in the cultural and heritage site including archaeology. So, there is a very strong relationship between the Kingdom and France, it has gone from strength to strength, especially in the four years that I have been CEO,” he added.
During the tour, Inzerillo highlighted the DGDA’s ambitions and opportunities for French cooperation.
“The very strong relationship between Saudi and France since the giga projects have only gone from strength to strength.”
He noted that there had been close to $1 billion in agreements signed between the authority and French companies.
Addressing the French architectural delegation, he said: “When the crown prince and I sat down to talk about Diriyah Gate the masterplan was ambitious at 1.5 million square meters of development.
“But the crown prince, when you give him drawings and you show him the master planning, he doesn’t just approve it, he will study it, he will tweak it, he will change it. That original 1.5 million has turned into 14 million square meters of development.
“These bold giga projects are no longer inspirational, they are coming to fruition,” he added.
The tour was coordinated by Business France, a French Embassy agency overseeing the globalization of the French economy to build awareness of the Kingdom’s ambitions in relation to environmental sustainability, innovative technology, and cultural and historical preservation.
Inzerillo said: “Diriyah is the birthplace of the Arabian Peninsula, Diriyah is the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Diriyah is the ancestral home of the house of Al-Saud.
“We want to celebrate the unique identity of Saudi Arabia by acknowledging its past but doing it in an authentic way.
“When you look at French architecture and you look at French design and you look at France as one of the great cultural heritage tourism countries in the world you are indeed an inspiration to us.
“We are going through another very large expansion of architectural and design competitions in the next 12 months.
“We will be building 20,000 residents which we will start in the first quarter of 2023,” he added.
Diriyah Gate 1 is centered around culture and heritage and will utilize traditional mud bricks in its construction.
“We are currently making 180 million mud bricks. We just symbolically last week did the mudbrick making for the first 1 million that we finished. We have 179 million more to make,” he said.
Riyadh is set to host the 22nd World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, where the authority will be making various announcements regarding its projects.
“During that time, not only will we announce all of the new assets for 2023, but we will also show the completion of major aspects of Vision 2030 in 2022,” Inzerillo added.