Riyadh: calm and tranquil stretching endlessly out into the desert.
So far Riyadh has avoided the race for height ubiquitous through out the Middle East. Its two major icons, the Kingdom- and the Al Faisaliah towers emerge from the flatness of the city, lingering over the city like a mirage.
How long will Riyadh preserve its unique character? With the lifting of height restrictions in the central spine, Riyadh is facing an onslaught of new towers, new icons, competing for prominence. A radical transformation of the city seems only a matter of time. Currently lone monuments, Kingdom and Al Faisaliah will be subsumed into the mass of competing signals. For the first time Riyadh will possess what has become the standard DNA of the contemporary city: a skyline.
The premise of this project is not to vie for attention by adding another redundant icon, but rather to introduce a structure that will preserve and enhance the current Al Faisaliah tower’s presence and ensure its continued existence as one of Riyadh’s major symbols.
Not one, but two almost identical structures, one white, one black, flank the Al Faisaliah tower.
The first tower contains all the major office and hotel program required by the brief, the second tower, placed on a site yet to be acquired, acts as a strategic reserve to exploit the full potential of the site. It contains further office program in addition to the brief and 36 floors of service apartments to meet the needs of a new generation of businessmen.
The towers are connected via a plinth that links all the lower levels of existing and new development and addresses the height difference between the north and the south side of the site. The plinth contains the office- and hotel lobbies; the retail program; the conference and business centre; and creates a platform for a Mosque for 900 people. The roof of the plinth acts as a large public garden that is shaded by a grid of trees.
Both towers have concrete exteriors that are perforated for fenestration. The pattern of the fenestration gradually transforms across each façade in response to solar conditions. The tapered form of their base minimizes the presence of the towers on the ground to only their circulation cores, echoing the pyramid shape of the existing Faisaliah Tower.
The specific composition and placement of the new towers allows the original Al Faisaliah tower to shift in and out of visibility depending on the view. Together the new towers ‘frame’ the Al Faisaliah tower -like a pair of quotation marks ; serving to re-interpret the very statement it makes – a ‘cadre’ that both sets the building apart, but also gives it a different grounding in the city’s new DNA.
The second tower is a trump card to be played once the city’s transformation has reached a new stage.
As such the two new towers are not only a physical bracketing, but also a bracketing over time, where the first tower kicks off the ‘liberation’ of the central strip and the second tower captures its apotheosis.
Reinier de Graaf