Desert inspires Norwegian architect for new Saudi opera house

Images courtesy of Binyan/Snøhetta
Norwegian architect Snøhetta has unveiled its design for the Royal Diriyah Opera House, incorporating traditional Najdi building techniques inspired by the desert.

Sited in the ancient Diriyah district on Riyadh’s northwestern outskirts, the opera house will take the form of a cluster of buildings appearing as if rising from the ground, all connected by passages.

The buildings will be built almost entirely from mud bricks and are arranged to provide shade from the sun.

Snøhetta took inspiration from the nearby Wadi Hanifah valley in designing their geometries.

The 46,000-sq-m Opera House will contain three venues, a 2000-seat opera theatre, plus two smaller 450-seat theatres.

The three will be complemented by a 450-seat, shaded rooftop amphitheater. A visitor services pavilion, café, garden and shop will also be on site.

The project will be built by Diriyah Company and operated by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.

Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, Snøhetta co-founder, said: “This project aims to connect the area’s rich history with contemporary culture, highlighting the importance and integrity of arts when building future communities.

“Through this project, Diriyah Company showcases the significance of architecture as a catalyst for building a profound cultural understanding and for sensitizing the societal experiences.”

The Royal Diriyah Opera House is due to open in 2028.

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