The New York-based firm FXFOWLE has six active projects in the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, a 55 million-square-foot, mixed-use development. Among them is the Museum of Built Environment, which aims to explore the role that social, economic, and environmental forces have played in the region’s constructed landscape, both historically and in recent times.
The 340,000-square-foot museum will be sited near a large plaza by a sunken pedestrian parkway. It will house galleries for permanent and temporary exhibitions, a 150-seat auditorium, and a restaurant, in addition to a monorail station and a network of skywalks.
Resembling a chiseled rock and partly clad in prismatic laminated glass panels, the building’s design was inspired by two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia: Mada’in Saleh, an ancient city featuring rock-cut architecture, and At-Turaif, a 15th-century complex made of adobe. The programmatic distribution is expressed in the massing by creating greater solidity and opacity on the museum’s upper levels while maintaining transparency on the lower public levels. The building’s façade on the upper levels incorporates prismatic laminated glass panels which create a varied textural quality and allow day light at select controlled locations.
Site excavation for the museum has begun, with completion scheduled for 2012.