Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision Unveiled through Mega Projects
Saudi Arabia, a country going through a tremendous transition, is not only changing its skyline but also redefining its identity on a global level. As part of their 2030 Vision serving as the compass, the kingdom is moving toward new developments, aiming to revive culture and diversify the economy. In fact, the capital, Riyadh, is leading the transformation by hosting the 2030 World Expo. Representing the country’s dedication to advancement, several mega projects are taking place and transforming the kingdom’s fabric.
Amidst the various projects, many world-renowned firms are working on these mega projects at many different scales. For example, the cultural renaissance is shown through Snøhetta’s Opera House in Diriyah, while the Jeddah Tower is on a trajectory that will overtake the Burj Khalifa. In the meantime, Heatherwick Studio’s conversion of a Jeddah desalination plant into a thriving cultural center showcases their repurposing of industrial spaces. From coastal projects by Foster + Partners to city center skyscrapers that are redefining the skyline, the country is undergoing significant transformations in its built environment.
Read on to discover 9 mega projects that are taking place in the Saudi Arabian region and will be completed before 2030.
BIG’s “Kaktus Towers” Near Completion in Copenhagen
Designed as a new a global entertainment, sports, and culture hub in the making. This year, Populous announced its plan to design the Qiddiya City Esports Arena and a multi-use stadium in the city. Designed to become an innovative institution that will serve as the focal point for Qiddiya City, both venues will function as a comprehensive entertainment center for the new megaproject in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Known as the ‘world’s first mixed-use gaming and esports district,’ the arena boasts the largest aggregate area of video screens in any esports facility, incorporating 4D technologies and immersive experiences. The architectural concept by Populous is centered around six tapered masses adorned with neon lights, set to be the inaugural development within Qiddiya City.
Snøhetta | Diriyah
Snøhetta has just revealed plans for a new opera house in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. The goal of the Opera House is to fuse the contemporary requirements of a global performing arts and music venue with the architectural traditions of the local Najdi people. Scheduled for completion in 2028, the Opera House is a key component of a comprehensive master plan designed to revitalize the Diriyah district outside of Riyadh. Overall, the district is set to transform into a cultural hub, combining tradition with contemporary art.
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture | Jeddah
After a five-year hiatus, the Jeddah Tower has restarted construction, set to be the tallest building in the world. Designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the tower boasts a Four Seasons hotel, apartments, offices, and other mixed-use facilities. Interestingly, the tower is set to surpass the height of the infamous Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE.
Heatherwick Studio | Jeddah
In Jeddah, Heatherwick Studio has unveiled a revitalizing proposal that will turn an abandoned desalinization plant into the center of a new cultural hub. Reimagined as an industrial building, the museum is designed to provide large-scale commission display spaces, studios, ateliers, and manufacturing facilities. The main call will become an exhibition area that contrasts the industrial nature of the design. In addition, the intervention also envisions the scheme to function as a marketplace or souq, encouraging cooperation between diverse artists and makers.
Foster + Partners | AlUla
In Amaala, a tourism destination being developed along the Red Sea coast in northwestern Saudi Arabia, Foster + Partners has unveiled plans for the Marine Life Institute. The Institute is part of the Triple Bay development, featuring research labs, galleries, and instructional spaces. The building mimics coral formations, hoping to become a fully immersive marine institution. In fact, visitors will be able to walk underwater, snorkel with rare species, and discover a coral exhibition.
Saudi Government | Murabba, Riyadh
In downtown Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian government has revealed plans for the “Mukaab,” a cube-shaped skyscraper that will be at the heart of the new Murabba district in downtown Riyadh. Measuring 400 meters in height, width, and length, the Mukaab is intended to be the largest manmade structure in the world. The construction of the project began in 2023, and is set to be completed in 2030.
Red Sea Global | Amaala, Red Sea Development
The developer Red Sea Global joined forces with the wellness brand Clinique La Prairie to develop this high-end health resort in Amaala. The resort features 13 villas, 52 houses, and suits that offer a retreat for visitors. Its facilities include a diagnostics lab, a museum, a beach club, workshops, training rooms, private dining spaces, and a cooking school. The Hotel should be welcoming its first guests at the end of 2024.
Foster + Partners | Red Sea Development
Designed by Foster + Partners, the Red Sea International Airport is now under construction in Saudi Arabia. The airport is part of the larger Red Sea Project and tourism plan, situated on the West Coast of the sea. The design features five pod buildings grouped around a central drop-off and pick-up space. Additionally, the design and textures of the scheme are inspired by the surrounding vernacular of the area. To cater to travelers who are interested in The Red Sea Project, the airport boasts “mini terminals” which can function independently and optimize energy efficiency. Finally, the airport is set to handle one million passengers by 2030.
Saudi Arabian Government | NEOM
NEOM, the new urban project by Saudi Arabia grabbing global attention, is a city positioned in the country’s northwest region. The project aims to broaden the economy, decreasing its dependency on oil. Since its 2017 launch, NEOM has been advertised as a cutting-edge metropolis serving as a global hub for futuristic living. Its ten different zones include an 1170km long tower, an upside-down seaside hotel, a futuristic ski resort in the desert, and an entertainment venue carved into a mountain.
As the towers and developments reshape the Saudi skyline, the scale of these mega projects and their rapid construction pace are questioned. The projects’ scope, financial investments, and speed of construction open up debates about the costs of labor, the environment, and how viable these projects are. Although this top-down approach propels the nation into a future era, it simultaneously raises concerns about inclusivity and adaptability. Furthermore, the environmental effects of such developments are examined. With events like the 2030 World Expo in Riyadh, the country invites the world to witness its speedy accomplishments. Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision is a forward-thinking plan, and under these plans, the country is undergoing a transformational path, demanding the world’s collective attention.