HKS references "forts and palaces" for monolithic arena in Saudi Arabia

Architecture studio HKS has unveiled plans for The Arena in Diriyah, a 20,000-seat venue for sports and entertainment in Saudi Arabia that references the country’s traditional architecture.

Designed by HKS for developer Diriyah Company, the arena will be located in the town of Diriyah and intended as a “tourism hallmark” that helps draw visitors to the region.

This is hoped to promote cultural and economic growth in line with the Saudi Vision 2030 – a plan to diversify the country’s economy to reduce its dependence on oil.

Render of arena exterior by HKS and Diriyah CompanyRender of arena exterior by HKS and Diriyah Company
HKS has designed a multipurpose arena in Diriyah

The 76,000-square-metre arena will be arranged into monolithic volumes decorated with luminous triangular perforations, angular openings and decorative detailing reminiscent of the country’s traditional Najdi architecture.

Between the volumes, HKS has designed a series of “digital waterfalls” – jagged, transparent facades that will emit light from the interior.

This glowing effect is hoped to transform the arena into a beacon, encouraging visitors inside.

Exterior view of plaza and arena by HKSExterior view of plaza and arena by HKS
Monolithic volumes will be decorated with triangular perforations

“The architecture rises from the landscape as a series of monoliths, evoking local geological formations and alluding to ancient Nadji forts and palaces,” said lead architect Alex Thomas.

“Digital waterfalls animated by light glow between them. The visual energy of the waterfalls serves as a beacon drawing guests to the dynamic experience inside.”

A large, paved plaza adjacent to the building will be open for locals and visitors while providing an outdoor venue for live performances and pop-up shows.

Additionally, a retail and dining district lined with outdoor seating space will aim to create a “prolonged entertainment experience” for visitors, HKS said.

The Arena in Diriyah interior spaceThe Arena in Diriyah interior space
The 20,000-seat arena aims to serve as a “tourism hallmark”

Inside, The Arena in Diriyah will offer rows of seating organised around an illuminated central stage backed by a large digital screen.

The venue will also offer different configurations to enable flexibility when hosting a variety of events.

Outdoor seating at The Arena in Diriyah by HKS and Diriyah CompanyOutdoor seating at The Arena in Diriyah by HKS and Diriyah Company
A retail and dining district will be lined with outdoor seating space

The project is the latest in a wider masterplan for Diriyah, which is set to accommodate 100,000 residents, workers, students and visitors upon completion.

Other projects currently under development in Saudi Arabia include a two-kilometre-high skyscraper by Foster + Partners and a three-sided stadium overlooking a cliff side by Populous.

The renders are courtesy of HKS Architects. 

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