The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture

Mega projects

Through promoting knowledge, inspiring creativity, and encouraging innovation, we can unleash the most important energy source there is: human potential.

A vision for the future

Chapter 1

In 2008, during our 75th anniversary, we announced our intention to create a modern center of culture and learning. The vision was to create a cultural institution of international renown, and a model for social progress through education and cross-cultural exchange. 

This was an evolution of a far-reaching earlier vision. When the original concession agreement between Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil Company of California was signed on May 20, 1933, King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Al Sa‘ud insisted on including a clause directing the company to provide opportunities for Saudi citizens.

The vision of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz launched our long-lasting investment in the people of Saudi Arabia. Fast forward to May 2008. His son, HM King Abdullah, laid the foundation stone for the new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture.

The new Center, also known as iThra’, the Arabic word for ‘enrichment’ — promises a continuous journey of enrichment, using science, innovation, arts and culture to inspire creativity and a love of learning, helping to transform Saudi Arabia into a knowledge economy.

Bringing the vision to life

Chapter 2

We launched a global architectural competition, inviting some of the world’s best-known architects to come up with designs for the Center. We ultimately chose the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, whose idea contained multiple layers of symbolism and was inspired by the main business of our company: energy.

The design focuses on the geological nature of the Kingdom, using an assortment of different-sized “rocks”, which symbolize diversity. These rocks lean on one another to illustrate solidarity, and show that the various disciplines explored in the building all depend on one another. The design even extends to the layout of the content housed within, placing inspiration from the past in the rocks underground, the present at ground level, and the future soaring up into the sky.

The 85,000 square meter King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture — and the surrounding 220,000 square meter Knowledge Park — has created a space to inspire the imagination.

The building's exterior is one of a kind in modern architecture, entirely wrapped with a 350km long steel pipe. With its constant curves rather than straight lines, each design feature posed a particular challenge, but the strength of our engineering culture at Saudi Aramco helped us create this iconic, world-class, architectural structure on a giant scale.

A new source of energy

We chose to build the Center in Dhahran, near the “Prosperity Well”, the Kingdom’s first commercial oil well. This demonstrates our commitment to developing an even greater source of wealth: creative energy that feeds innovation, and eventually, transformation.

Rising 90 metres above ground level, the building blends iconic design with advanced technology, in a mission to become a cultural landmark on both a regional, national, and global level.

Inspiring people, helping the planet

iThra is one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings in the region, tying in with our desire to protect and revitalize the planet. For example, 50% of the construction waste such as wood, steel, and paper was recycled, and most of the wood finishes were bought from sustainable sources. Building on this, the Knowledge Park features a vertical garden, home to no fewer than 15,000 plants. In recognition of our aim to help the environment, we are currently seeking two sustainability certifications, called LEED (Leadership in Environment and Energy Design) certificates.

Transforming the next generation

Chapter 3

The building’s avant-garde exterior directly reflects what’s happening inside. In its quest to accelerate human potential, The Center uses advanced technology and creativity to help young people develop new kinds of skills. It’s about building the workforce of the future, not just for Saudi Aramco but the rest of the Kingdom too.

Cultivating a knowledge society

The Center encourages creativity and innovation in all its programs and offerings. Nurturing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills is key, and made even more powerful when combined with art and culture. We believe that to make the most of scientific exploration, people need new, daring ways of thinking. And to maximize creativity, we need to fuel the imagination and encourage innovative problem-solving. That’s why The Center seeks to ignite people’s natural desire to explore, discover and learn.

The Center aims to prepare the next generation of original thinkers to lead in scientific, engineering and creative industries.

Creating economic opportunities

With the global economic landscape changing, industries that fuse the arts, culture, business and technology are at the heart of a new creative economy. Hence the Center is our way of equipping society with new economic opportunities, preparing the next generation of original thinkers to lead in the scientific, engineering, and creative industries.

Enrichment opportunities

The Center’s volunteer programs offer thousands of enriching opportunities that will account for around 80% of the staffing needs. They’re designed to build interpersonal skills, provide practical experiences, and support the core values of citizenship.

Engaging hearts and minds

Chapter 4

People might visit the Center for inspiration, exploration, knowledge, social interaction, entertainment or all of these things. Its programs and activities mean that each visitor is taken on a journey that sparks creativity and unlocks new possibilities previously unseen in the Kingdom, marking an exciting shift in the cultural landscape.

Each area housed within the Center has been specially designed to provide the space, inspiration and practical materials to inspire a wide range of learning, in a state of the art setting.

Library

Rather than just a vast series of book shelves, the library is an interactive experience, with an emphasis on active learning. It will house over 220,000 books in Arabic and English, with another 500,000 books, periodicals, and reports in the digital archives, to encourage a new culture of reading in the Kingdom.

The Library

IDEAlab

IDEAlab is an aspiring entrepreneur and inventor’s dream, providing the chance to refine and develop ideas, before transforming them into prototypes. With training workshops, guidance, and mentorship, creative ideas can come to life as market-ready products and services.

Knowledge Tower

With 18 floors of learning facilities, the Knowledge Tower will host 2,000 workshops annually in STEM subjects, as well as the arts, multimedia, and skill-building programs. With 500,000 hours of learning opportunities per year we aim to reach 80,000 students, cultivating citizenship, celebrating diversity, promoting volunteerism, nurturing curiosity and an indelible yearning for knowledge.

The Knowledge Tower

Children’s Museum

The first museum in the Kingdom for children aged twelve and under, this aims to develop cognitive and personality skills during the formative years, through exhibitions and entertaining, interactive activities. The ‘Kids Vids’ films created for the ‘Children’s Discovery Zone’ won the prestigious New York Film Prize.

Museum

The Museum provides a panoramic view of the best of Saudi and global cultures in four galleries. Each focuses on a specific topic, opening minds to new ideas, forms of cultural expression, and understanding. Thousands of years are explored in a journey of discovery beginning with contemporary Saudi art, followed by Saudi identity and heritage, Islamic art and legacy, and the natural history of the Arabian Peninsula.

Museum

The Great Hall

The Great Hall is our window to the world, housing international touring exhibitions, festivals, conferences and events. By offering visitors a chance to see what other societies have to offer, this space acts as a bridge connecting cultures, while cultivating an innovative, creative community.

Multimedia Theater

A 300-seat auditorium offers everything from lectures to films. Its primary purpose is to screen original works from the emerging Saudi film industry, as well as educational and culturally insightful documentaries from across the globe.

Performing Arts Theater

The 900-seat theater will feature live local and international productions. The shows will reinforce Saudi social and cultural values, and provide training to local talent in the fields of theater, cinematic production, script writing, and the supporting arts.

Performing Arts Theater

Archives Gallery

The Archives Gallery is a guardian of the Kingdom’s heritage. Here rare, vital documents, records and elements of our history are managed, cataloged and preserved. Included in this gallery are the official archives of Saudi Aramco, documenting more than eight decades of the company’s history and achievements.

Energy Exhibit

The Energy Exhibit provides a hands-on, immersive experience of the world of petroleum, its sciences, energy and technology. Visitors follow oil’s journey from the ground to consumers while exploring the latest innovations, as well as the emerging field of alternative energy sources.

Award-winning programs

Chapter 5

The Center has been recognized for its pioneering youth educational outreach program, as our ‘iThra Youth Initiative’ won the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) award in 2013.

Building on this, it’s been designed to reach 2 million young men and women by 2020 with a series of creative, interactive and innovative programs.