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.