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Zaha Hadid Architects wins Saudi cultural centre contest

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Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won a competition for an 8,780m² cultural centre in historic Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

The Urban Heritage Administration Centre project will create a headquarters for the local heritage museum on the outskirts of Riyadh.

ZHA’s winning design will be constructed immediately next to the 6,330m² Diriyah Governate building by Dar Al-Omran, which was chosen following an earlier contest.

Diriyah, 35km north-west of Riyadh in the lush Wadi Hanifah valley, was home to the first Saudi dynasty in the 18th century, and today its ruined walls and palaces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The heritage centre features a water-filled atrium and four ‘scooped’ green oases within its façade, referencing the Wadi Hanifah valley.

The façade is perforated to protect the interior from solar gain while enhancing views of the surrounding area. Diriyah’s historic rammed-earth buildings are also echoed in the centre’s double-façade which will deliver both views and an appearance of solidity.

Once complete it will feature a permanent exhibition space, library, lecture hall, education area and archaeological research facilities.

A statement from the practice said: ‘True authenticity resides in the balance between tradition and ever-evolving innovation. This has been integral throughout the project’s design process.

‘In so doing, the Urban Heritage Administration Centre becomes part of the nation’s evolving cultural heritage, achieving the ambitions of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

‘The centre will also provide the permanent headquarters for the heritage museum as a growing institution with increasingly popular educational workshops and cultural tourism, in addition to the expanding research programmes undertaken by scientists and academics from around the world.’

The latest win comes seven months after studio founder Zaha Hadid died. Earlier this year the practice won a £25 million cultural quarter in Bournemouth and the firm is also shortlisted for an eco-stadium in Gloucestershire

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