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London architect HKS to design Diriyah’s 20,000-seat Arena

How the Grand Boulevard Approach of The Arena will look Supplied/Diriyah
How the Grand Boulevard Approach of The Arena will look
  • HKS Architects is a stadiums specialist
  • Sports and entertainment venue planned
  • Ready in time for World Expo 2030

Saudi Arabia has hired a London-based architecture practice to design a sports and entertainment venue in Riyadh’s historic district of Diriyah, close to the site where a landmark opera house will be built. 

“The architecture rises from the landscape as a series of monoliths, evoking local geological formations and alluding to ancient Nadji forts and palaces that have animated and lit ‘digital waterfalls’,” Alex Thomas, lead architect at HKS Architects, said in a statement. 

HKS Architects, which describes itself as an architecture, interior design, planning and advisory firm, has won awards for its design of the SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams American football team, and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

Diriyah is one of the centrepieces of Saudi Arabia’s massive development plan, with a deadline of 2030 to complete the residential district, including the opera house, museum and arena when Riyadh is host to the World Expo

The government says it wants to make Riyadh, a once closed city, into a global capital and has allocated $348 million to host 100 countries eligible to participate in the 2030 Expo. 

Diriyah has already opened a retail and heritage district, which includes the palace quarters of the Al Saud family who first established a state in the 18th century. The $63 billion masterplan includes an ultra-rich residential and golfing district in Wadi Safar

Speaking at a real estate event in Cannes, Diriyah CEO Jerry Inzerillo said The Arena would be a 20,000-seat multipurpose sports, entertainment and cultural venue covering 76,000 square metres. He did not say how much it would cost to build. 

The Arena Bowl, where concerts could be held

The Arena aims to be the Middle East’s premier venue of its type, “drawing visitors from across the globe and completely transforming the region’s events landscape”, Inzerillo said. 

After vast spending to bring global and Arab sports and entertainment stars to events in Riyadh over the past year, the city has succeeded in becoming the region’s cultural capital, Gulf-based diplomats say. 

Norwegian architect Snøhetta unveiled the design for the Royal Diriyah Opera House in December, with hopes to complete it by 2028. 

Jeddah Central, another giga-project, signed a contract in 2022 with Danish architect Henning Larsen and British consultancy Buro Happold for an opera house in Saudi Arabia’s second city. Construction contracts were signed in February. 

The giga-projects are owned by the Public Investment Fund, which is managed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

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