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Green light for giant botanical garden

King Abdullah Gardens goes to tender, wins international design award

The giant botanical garden was commissioned by the City of Riyadh as a gift to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
The giant botanical garden was commissioned by the City of Riyadh as a gift to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

The joint venture between British consultancies Barton Willmore and Buro Happold has completed the design for the King Abdullah International Gardens (KAIG) – a giant botanical garden commissioned by the City of Riyadh as a gift to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to celebrate his accession to the throne.

“While we have extensive experience in the design and construction of cutting-edge projects in the Middle East,” said Jerry Young, project principal and partner at Buro Happold. “The design of KAIG has been extremely challenging because nothing as complex has been built on this scale and in this kind of environment before.”

Young continues: “There has been almost zero repetition during the design process and the end result has been achieved through a truly multi-disciplinary, collaborative and innovative approach.”

Barton Willmore and Buro Happold won an international competition in 2007 to claim the right to design KAIG. Now, having completed the design with advisors from the UK’s National History Museum and Eden Project, KAIG is to be put out to tender to contractors.

KAIG’s design, which won the overall global leisure category for commercial property at the International Property Awards in mid-November, features a 10-hectare building—the equivalent of 15 football pitches—which will house the world’s largest indoor garden.

KAIG will be set within a 160-hectare site in an arid desert site within the KSA central region and, as a cornerstone of the City of Riyadh’s growth plans, will provide a new destination for KSA nationals and international visitors.

Visitors will be able to walk amongst plants, trees and flowers which lived over 400 million years ago, as well as a range of external gardens which will include a maze, butterfly enclosure and aviary.

Starting in the Devonian period, when plants remained at knee height, visitors will travel through the Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous and Cenozoic gardens before reaching the riverbeds and light woodland of the Pliocene period. Finally, they will enter the ‘Garden of Choices’ where they will be presented with scenarios related to climate change and important choices necessary for the future.

The project’s centrepiece will be a ‘paleobotanic’ building formed by two adjoining crescents that will rise 40 metres in height. The building’s roof, which will be the largest ETFE-covered structure in the world, will span up to 90 metres. KAIG will also feature an array of specialist tensile, pneumatic and grid shell structures.

KAIG will also showcase sustainable development and incorporate renewable and low energy technologies. It will employ thermal ice storage and black and grey water recycling systems, with underground reservoirs for storage and, with the outside temperature reaching up to 50°C, this approach will be vital to the control of the different historical climates inside the various gardens.

“KAIG is just one example of where we are working closely with a partner to create a new type of sustainable community,” said Nick Sweet, project director and partner in charge of urban design at Barton Willmore’s London office. “Indeed, this project epitomises our desire to marry manmade structures with the natural environment and produce a broader narrative about their complex interrelationships over time.”

Sweet explained further: “The achievement in pulling together the KAIG designs is the result of a monumental joint effort. Collaboration has been key in order to integrate all disciplines and services to ensure we stayed true to our original design concept,”

Barton Willmore provided masterplanning, architecture and landscape design services while Buro Happold provided project management services and structural, building services and infrastructure engineering design, as well as a range of specialist consultancy services.

The JV team has also been responsible for the design of KAIG’s infrastructure including earthworks, roads, footpaths, coach and car parks, an energy centre, sewerage treatment systems and services including electricity, telecoms, gas and water.

 

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