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Diriyah (Diriyah Gate)

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

2017 - Ongoing
Cultural HeritageLarge Urban ProjectMixed UseTouristic

Project Description

Approach Words: Heritage Preservation, Sustainability, Urban Livability

Public Policy Instruments: Communicative, Organization, Physical Intervention, Planning

Diriyah, also known as Diriyah Gate, is SAR 64 bn ($ 17 bl) mixed-use heritage and tourism development project located in Diriyah, “The City of Earth”, in Saudi Arabia1. The project envisions the city of Diriyah as “a new cultural capital rooted in tradition”2, offering “a unique heritage experience, educational and cultural opportunities, as well as world-class residential living”3. Diriyah is considered one of the world’s largest preservation and development projects4, and a key project in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 aimed at cultural revival and economic diversification5 i.

Title: Diriyyah Gate illustrative plan.

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Title: Rendered aerial view of Diriyah project.

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Title: General view of Al-Turaif district in historic Diriyah after restoration.

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Title: Diriyah Season.

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To implement the project’s vision, a master plan was proposed which extends along a 7 square kilometer site, located just 15 minutes northwest of Riyadh6. The master plan features a mix of urban development, cultural, and recreational facilities centered around At-Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the ancestral home of the House of Al Saud7. In specific, it includes the restoration of the Al-Turaif site, the development of Bujairi Terrace, a major dining destination featuring traditional Najdi architecture, the King Salman University, and the House of Saud Museum8. New developments in Diriyah will blend traditional Najdi architectural styles with modern urbanism, encompassing mixed-use, residential, leisure, hotels, and commercial areas9.  The commercial heart of the project is Diriyah Square, a gathering place which is inclusive to locals and visitors alike10. Moreover, the project aims to restore and integrate the surrounding Wadi Hanifah through walking tracks and gathering areas, as well as the restoration of the historic palm groves and farm11.

Sustainability is a key focus of the project, with initiatives in water conservation, energy efficiency, and climate resilience12. In addition, the project supports the local economy through Diriyah Season, an annual themed festival that brings the cultural heritage of Diriyah to life through a captivating array of events and experiences13.

Here, the economic, cultural, and touristic activities are strategically designed to promote robust economic growth and community development, while enhancing global awareness of Saudi heritage14. Diriyah is targeting 178,000 new direct jobs, 100,000 residents, and more than 50 million visits by 2030, in support of the Saudi national tourism15.

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), a subsidiary of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) was established in 2017 to “preserve, celebrate and develop Diriyah”16. The Diriyah project was inaugurated in 2019 by King Salman, and the Diriyah Company, was established by DGDA and PIF in 2022 to develop and execute the Diriyah Project17. Architecture and engineering company Atkins was announced as a consultant18.
The project is being carried out in phases:

  • Diriyah Gate One (DG1), scheduled for completion by 202519, includes historic restoration work as well as a new district near the old city, based on the same architectural style20.
  • Diriyah Gate Two (DG2) will reportedly have a Parisian-scaled mixed-use development featuring a main boulevard like the Champs-Élysées21. Saudi Real Estate Infrastructure Company (Binyahis currently executing the enabling works for this phase (site preparation, earthworks, demolition)22.
  • Diriyah Gate Three (DG3) will be a modern residential zone which will be merge with the rest of the city of Riyadh23.

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