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Al-Kindi Plaza, Saudi Arabia (awarded 1987–1998)

In 1932, the founder and monarch of the new kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahman A1 Saud (Ibn Saud), selected his ancestral city of Riyadh as his political base. Riyadh had been the centre from which he conquered the tribes of the Najd and took over control of the Hejaz from the Sharif of Makkah. His intention was to unify the Arabian Peninsula to establish his new nation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ibn Saud and his heirs began to merge the political and administrative centres of the country in Riyadh, the new capital (AlShaikh, 1985). All the governmental agencies and ministries had been moved to Riyadh by the 1980s, except for the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the eighty or so diplomatic missions; these were later moved there in 1984. A self-contained housing project was built for ministry employees.

In order to accommodate the government buildings, diplomatic missions, consulates, and embassies that had been relocated to Riyadh, it was decided to create a purpose-built diplomatic quarter. The government established a bureau - the Riyadh Development Authority - for the project to oversee the diplomatic quarter and the ministry housing project; it would then be responsible for moving the diplomatic missions (AlShaikh, 1985). The area designated for the new Riyadh Diplomatic Quarter extends over some 580 hectares of what once was open desert; the quarter is situated on the northwest periphery of Riyadh, about eight kilometres from the old city centre. In order to provide additional facilities for the governmental and diplomatic precinct, it was decided to create a multipurpose shopping/office complex in the quarter, the Al-Kindi Plaza, which would also include public spaces and picnic areas for the residents of Riyadh.

The Al-Kindi Plaza is situated at the centre of the Diplomatic Quarter. The main objective of the project was to provide cultural, religious, administrative, and commercial facilities to the community. The design was required to incorporate elements of traditional Najdi style such as courtyards, maid- ans, mosques, etc., while utilising modern technologies and contemporary materials (Figure 5.3). The complex includes a central mosque, a Friday

Al-Kindi Plaza, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Beeah Group Consultants/Ali Shuaibi and Abdul Rahman Hussaini

Figure 5.3 Al-Kindi Plaza, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, by Beeah Group Consultants/Ali Shuaibi and Abdul Rahman Hussaini

Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Reha Gunay (photographer) mosque, a government service complex, a public square (maidan, in Arabic) surrounded by shopping arcades, and an assortment of gardens and restaurants (Al-Radi, 1994b). One of the salient features of the plaza is the central mosque, the typical communal and religious hub of all Najdi communities. This mosque evokes and represents the strong traditional links between Islam and public services.

While the block, as a whole, is organised around the public square, each individual building surrounds a central courtyard. Two composite gateways connect the block with the surrounding boulevards, filtering the traffic - pedestrians walk along the ground floor while motor vehicles enter through the lower level where parking is available (Al-Radi, 1994b). Al-Kindi Plaza’s landscaping consists of shaded arcades, small fountains and other water elements, and planters. The marble-paved square is landscaped with few plants along the sides. The plaza landscaping was designed to be ecologically sustainable in its use of plants found in the nearby desert environment. As the public square is not well shaded, it is only used in the evenings, another link with tradition when people would congregate on the maidan, between prayer times, in the cool of the evening.

Modern imported technology was used to build the Al-Kindi Plaza. Reinforced concrete was used in the framed system with hollow concrete blocks for the infill; precast slabs were also used in certain parts of the building. Insulated tiled roofs and suspended ceiling complete the modern look. However, by using stucco spray on metal lath, the traditional Najdi facade of mud plaster finish on adobe (mud-brick) was preserved as a design feature. Imported marble tiles were used for flooring in the public spaces in addition to local cement. According to A1 Radi (1994b), although all the interior enclosed spaces are air-conditioned, many executives seem to prefer the natural and cool ventilation from the narrow openings on the outside wall.

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