Like a glittering oasis in the valley, Zaha Hadid Architect‘s planned Urban Heritage Administration Center will be a standout landmark in the Saudi Arabian city of Diriyah. The firm recently won the competition for the new 95,000-square-foot head office of the Heritage Museum, an educational institution founded to preserve the UNESCO world heritage sites of Diriyah and the surrounding Wadi Hanifah valley. Wishing to strike a balance between authenticity and innovation, the winning design engages with the area’s geographical and cultural context. Diriyah is a natural oasis within the Wadi Hanifah valley, thus the building is centered around a large water feature in an atrium marked with branching columns, and the exterior has four scooped oases carved into a seemingly solid facade.
The center is wrapped in an outer skin that is carefully perforated in order to allow a visual connection with the surroundings while limiting interior sun exposure—the double facade also acting as a contemporary nod to the rammed-earth construction found in historic Diriyah. The firm shares that “the design relates to Diriyah’s local vernacular, not through mimicry or a limiting adherence to references of the past, but by developing a deeper understanding of its traditions and composition—expressed in a contemporary interpretation informed by the same natural forces that defined Diryah’s historical architecture.”
A permanent exhibition gallery, library, lecture hall, educational spaces, and a new scientific institute that will conduct field research at the archeological sites will also be housed within the center, which was one of 36 projects initiated prior to Zaha Hadid’s passing early this year.
All renderings and animation via Methanoia.