A symbol of modern Riyadh since it was completed in 2002, the Kingdom Centre contains a mixed-use program that has made it one of the most active and thriving places in the city.
Fifteen years after the opening of the 300-meter-tall Kingdom Centre in Riyadh, it is virtually impossible to imagine the Saudi capital without its distinctive form. The bold yet elegant tower, designed by Omrania in association with Ellerbe Becket, culminates in an inverted catenary arch spanned by a glass skybridge observatory — a familiar sight on the skyline and one of the most popular attractions in the city for tourists and locals alike.
Equally important to the long-term success of the Kingdom Centre is the vibrant mixed-use program catering to the needs of thousands of residents, workers, and visitors each day. Rising from the thriving and increasingly cosmopolitan district of Al-Olaya, the commercial heart of Riyadh, the tower’s 30 occupiable floors house office space, a five-star hotel, luxury apartments and condominiums, and the Kingdom Holding Company. The public observation deck at the top of the building takes the form of a 57-meter-long steel-and-glass bridge offering unparalleled views of Riyadh and, on a clear day, the surrounding desert landscape.
At the tower’s base, two symmetrical wings embrace the city toward the east and west, with landscaped public gardens filling out the remainder of the block. The west wing features a 4,400-square-meter, two-story venue that accommodates up to 1,200 people for events and also contains private meeting rooms, royal suites, and specialty restaurants.
The east wing houses the award-winning Al-Mamlaka shopping mall, whose 161 stores span three spacious levels. The 56,000-square-meter mall includes international departments stores like Debenhams and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as luxury retailers including Louis Vuitton and Gucci. As shopping has become increasingly popular in Riyadh, the Kingdom Centre has become one of the most popular and prestigious destinations in the city with stores and amenities for men, women, and families, including the “Ladies Kingdom” area which offers services and spaces exclusively for women.
The Kingdom Centre was one of Riyadh’s first skyscrapers and, when it was completed in 2002, it was the tallest in Saudi Arabia. Such a feat would not be possible without close collaboration between the design and engineering teams, as well as the myriad collaborators and subcontractors involved with the project. Structurally, the building consists of two systems: for the first 180 meters, reinforced concrete columns and beams connected to a reinforced concrete core carry the load down to the four-meter-thick, 3,100-square-meter raft foundation. The building‘s remaining height is supported by a more versatile steel structure, due to the complex shape created by the inverted arched opening at the top.
Working in unison with the structural and spatial design, a variety of complex but seamlessly integrated mechanical and electrical systems maintain a consistent indoor environment despite the intense demands of both Riyadh’s climate and the Kingdom Centre‘s mixed-use program.
On the exterior, the Kingdom Centre is wrapped in a sophisticated glass curtain wall that is engineered with a special heat-resistant coating to withstand the typically strong sunlight of the region. Unoccupied floors surrounding the inverted arch opening are clad in a matching metal panel to create a seamless architectural form.
Although Riyadh has grown a lot since the building‘s completion, and the skyline has developed rapidly with a plethora of glass towers, the Kingdom Centre remains a landmark in the city and an icon for the entire country. Its central location, distinct design, and diverse program all contribute to its enduring cultural and architectural prominence.