Snøhetta has recently finished work on a pair of cabins for healing in the Norwegian woods. The Outdoor Care Retreats, as the structures are known, are connected to local hospitals and are places where patients dealing with long-term illnesses can go to relax in natural settings. In a statement, child psychologist Maren Østvold Lindheim at the Oslo University Hospital said, "Nature provides spontaneous joy and helps patients relax. Being in natural surroundings brings them a renewed calm that they can bring back with them into the hospital. In this sense, the Outdoor Care Retreat helps motivate patients to get through treatment and contribute to better disease management." The cabins each provide about 375 square feet for patients to sit, recline, receive treatments, and relax. Interiors are clad in oak paneling and have large operable windows meant to create a strong connection to nature. The Friluftssykehuset Kristiansand, located near the Sørlandet Hospital Kristiansand, is shown in the above images. The other cabin, the Friluftssykehuset Rikshospitale, is close to the Oslo University Hospital, Rikshospitalet.
Posts tagged with "Snøhetta":
Snøhetta has released a swath of renderings showing how the studio plans to update the base of Philip Johnson’s (now landmarked) 550 Madison Avenue ahead of a December 4th Community Board 5 (CB5) Landmarks Committee meeting. After taking flak over their initial plans to peel back the granite facade from the postmodern tower’s base and replace it with glass, Snøhetta has released an alternate vision that will instead infill the building’s colonnade with retail. The biggest change would be to the rear passage that runs between East 56th Street and East 55th Street. Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman fully enclosed the lot within an arched glass-and-steel canopy during a renovation in 1994, and retail was installed inside: Snøhetta would replace the structure with a slimmer, open-ended alternative, scrap the retail, and instead turn the space into a massive garden. 550 Madison, originally built to headquarter AT&T in 1984, became the youngest landmarked building in New York City this past July, but owing to a secret demolition suffered in January, the lobby became ineligible for landmarking. Previously, four elevators at the back wall of the lobby would take employees and guests up to the office tower’s sky lounge 65 feet up, and traffic would be routed from there. Under Snøhetta’s scheme, the two elevator bays will be rotated 90 degrees, one to the north, one to the south, creating a passage through to the rear garden. The rear wall will only be gaining a window; a separate side door will be used to access the garden through the lobby. The Madison Avenue–facing loggias, originally public arcades that were enclosed in 2002 when Sony owned the building, would also be getting an overhaul. In the current scheme, the gridded windows would instead be replaced with a system that uses 12-foot-tall panes. At the rear, Snøhetta has designed a glass awning supported by Y-shaped steel columns that would open to the street at either end. Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman had covered one of the rear yard’s windows with a steel plate so an HVAC system could be run through, but that window would be restored if Snøhetta’s scheme is approved. In their renderings, Snøhetta has proposed a waterfall and public garden—the area currently only holds a few planters. Overall, Snøhetta claims that its updated plan would only touch six percent of the building’s facade and would increase the amount of public space from 14,600 square feet to 21,000 square feet. Plans to renovate the tower’s interior are ongoing. Although the building was originally designed to house 800 office workers, developers Chelsfield America and Olayan America, along with minority partner RXR Realty, are still on track to convert the building into Class A office space for up to 3,000 workers. AN will follow this story as it develops and will update this article following the CB5 meeting.
The Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities (CGBC) at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) have completed the conversion of their 1920s-built home into a live-in living lab that offers a perpetual post-occupancy evaluation. Designed by Snøhetta and energy engineers Skanska Teknikk Norway, HouseZero, as the building is now known, requires zero energy for climate control, zero energy for daytime lighting, and zero carbon emissions. And in addition to generating more energy than it will ever use, it will also generate extensive data about its own performance. HouseZero is the ultimate tool for the CGBC researchers to tackle the building crisis in America. No that crisis, the other one. No, the other-other one: the inefficiency of the country’s existing building stock. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential and commercial buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy consumption. The CGBC is dedicated to using design and technology to create a more sustainable built environment, and HouseZero will help them develop new designs and systems for retrofitting existing buildings to significantly reduce America’s architectural carbon footprint. The renovation combines low-tech changes like larger windows to let in more light, concrete slabs to store thermal energy, and a solar vent that looks like a glass chimney, with high-tech solutions like hundreds of embedded sensors and computer-controlled actuators that automatically open and close the aforementioned larger windows to maintain the optimal internal temperature. Manual operation is also available for those times when individual comfort levels don't fall within computer-controlled optimum, and a combination of geothermal and solar heating will ensure the house stays warm during even the coldest days of a Cambridge winter. HouseZero's sensors aren’t just being used to adjust internal temperature; they’re collecting millions of points of data on the building's performance—daily—and will be used to analyze the effectiveness of its energy-saving features. The valuable data collected by HouseZero will inform “further research that demystifies building behavior,” said CGBC director Ali Malkawi. Because the building is located in the Mid-Cambridge Conservation District, the designers were limited in how they could impact the exterior of the building. This limitation ultimately benefits the project, not only by because it just makes the design more innately interesting, but also because it invites people to imagine how they could transform their own home into an energy efficient version of itself. Like Coke Zero, which promises the same great taste, with zero sugar, HouseZero promises the same great place, with zero energy. While average homeowners probably aren't going to add hundreds of sensors and a basement supercomputer to their 1923 Sears Roebuck and Co. mail-order bungalow anytime soon, they might consider adding on some larger thermal windows and maybe even some custom-designed sunscreens if they’re feeling inspired. As the CGBC aims to prove, these changes are good for the pocketbook and the environment. HouseZero is about challenging building conventions and finding new solutions to old problems. In time, the research collected by this smart house may help us building smarter towns and smarter cities across the country.
The new Calgary Central Library opened its doors to the public on November 1, a joint project between Snøhetta and Canadian studio DIALOG. The crystallized, aluminum-and-fritted-glass facade of the building’s upper portion belies a warm wood interior, and the entire library rises over an active Light Rail Transit Line that runs from below ground and up to the street level. The six-story, 240,000-square-foot library is expected to welcome twice as many visitors as the previous Central Library, no small feat in a city where more than half of the 1.2 million residents have an active library card. Patrons are welcomed by a massive wood archway at the entrance (made from western red cedar sourced from British Columbia, as with the rest of the wood in the building) shaped in reference to the region’s distinct Chinook arch cloud formations. Inside, past the lobby and atrium, an 85-foot-tall gap was carved that runs all of the way up to an oculus in the roof. According to Snøhetta, each floor was organized on a scale of “fun to serious,” with the livelier programming, such as the Children’s Library, arranged at the bottom of the building, and quieter study areas at the top. Visitors can ascend a sinuous central staircase below the oculus, and peer into the open floors and the stacks at each level. Vertically-striated wood slats were used to clad the edges at each section, extending and refining the woodwork seen in the entrance arch. At the very top is the Grand Reading Room, which, although unenclosed like the rest of the library, is meant to be the most intimate space in the building. Although faced with a difficult site, the design team chose to accentuate the necessary train tunnel at the Central Library’s northern corner. This is where the building’s curved sides join together to form a prominent “prow,” and where an inviting “living room” has been situated. The facade is made up of scattered, rhombus and triangle-shaped panels and windows. The density of the panels has been modulated depending on the level of privacy and sunlight required for each area, and openings carve out views for the spaces that look out over the city. Those strategic cuts also allow curious pedestrians to look into the library, which Snøhetta hopes will entice community members inside.
The El Paso Children's Museum announced yesterday that Snøhetta will design their brand new home in the heart of the city's Downtown Arts District. The firm beat out Koning Eizenberg Architecture and TEN Arquitectos for the honor, after a selection process that included public meetings, presentations, and the preparation of preliminary concepts for the museum. Snøhetta’s winning proposal lifts the museum off the ground on a series of angled columns, preserving the space underneath for interactive gardens. Designed for the young and the young-at-heart, the museum will inspire curiosity, exploration, and a better understanding of the world around us—something everybody could use a little more of these days—through immersive environments and innovative interactive exhibitions. The coalition of jurors who unanimously selected Snøhetta included the museum's board of directors, an architectural panel, and in, an unusually democratic process for an architecture competition, all the residents of El Paso, who were invited to vote on their favorite concept online. The commission is personal for the firm's partner and managing director Elaine Molinar, a native of El Paso. "The opportunity to create something of lasting impact for the city I grew up in is extremely rewarding," said Molinar. Supported through a combination of public funds, private-sector contributions, and a Quality of Life Bond program approved by El Paso voters in 2012, the $60 million project will be completed in 2021.
Snøhetta has been tapped to design a major expansion to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. As one of the city and state’s leading arts institutions, the new Joslyn will become a 21st-century cultural destination with increased gallery space, more public programming, and room for arts education opportunities. The Oslo- and New York-based firm will create a masterplan for the museum with a new building designed to “complement and enhance” the original structures on site: the Memorial Building, built in 1931, and the Walter and Suzanne Scott Pavilion, which was designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1994. Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, is proud to work on a project with such a deep cultural heritage that’s rooted in its geography. “Omaha’s place in the great landscape of the American West is a wonderful inspiration to us,” he said in a statement. “Together with Joslyn’s rich collections of art spanning the globe and its dynamic relationship with the communities that sustain it create a powerful platform to begin designing the next phase of its life, for future generations.” The addition of new galleries to the Museum will allow more room for its growing collections and give existing buildings the space to display art that they previously couldn't. This will include work from the museum's historic and contemporary Indigenous collections, which will be further supported by a newly appointed curator of Native American art. The Joslyn, which is free, has seen an increase in admission over the past decade. This expansion may help bring it even more into the global stage of 21st century art institutions.
Snøhetta’s dreamy vision for the new Far Rockaway public library in Queens, New York, is inching closer towards reality. Queens Public Library announced that the existing 50-year-old structure will officially close next week ahead of reconstruction. The $33-million project, designed by the Brooklyn- and Oslo-based firm, will break ground over the footprint of the 9,000-square-foot building in the coming months. The library is located at 1637 Central Avenue and was the talk of the town after Hurricane Sandy nearly destroyed the surrounding Rockaway community in 2012. In the aftermath of the storm, the library helped provide disaster relief to local residents. Snøhetta’s design for the new library is slated to not only bring stellar architecture to an often-neglected area of New York, but also help spur revitalization in the neighborhood. The redesign will double the space inside the library by adding new children’s and teen rooms, an ADA-compliant entrance and restrooms, an elevator, a large meeting room, and more. With these enlarged spaces, the library hopes to expand its burgeoning community programming. While significantly bigger than the original library, the two-story structure will feature an entirely green design to help it run efficiently. It will be LEED Gold certified, utilize daylight to control interior temperatures, and include a blue roof that captures stormwater. The site will also be elevated to exceed the new FEMA flood zone guidelines in case of future storms. Snøhetta’s sunset-hued, boxy building is sure to stand out in downtown Far Rockaway not only because of its angular massing but also because of its distinctive cladding. According to the architects, “the simple form provides a calm contrast to the visual noise of surrounding retail outlets.” At the corner of Mott and Central Avenues, the library’s main entrance will take the shape of a carved pyramid, outfitted with transparent glass so passersby can see what’s going on at night. Through a fritted glass curtain wall wrapping the structure, light will be diffused into the central atrium and gathering spaces below during the day. The new Far Rockaway Library is expected to be complete in 2021. Starting October 30, the library will operate out of 1003 Beach 20th Street through the end of construction.
Snøhetta's 'death house' has, well, died. Norwegian newspaper The Local reported that the Oslo city council recently voted to block the controversial house because it was too close to Edvard Munch's historic studio. The house had been designed for Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard, who is no stranger to controversy. His works have been described as racist and misogynist, and he has drawn accusations of promoting pedophilia for depicting semi-naked young boys. The house, officially titled A House to Die In, was the result of a collaboration between Melgaard and the Norwegian firm and was intended to be part-sculpture, part-home for the artist and his parents. The team attempted to translate the artist's work into building form for the project. Much like Melgaard's work, the structure was visually jarring and contained a mashup of various forms. An angular mass that was intended to have been clad in charred wood would have rested atop a series of white biomorphic columns. According to The Local, the city councilors did not object to the form so much as the fact that the building would have taken over formerly open public space. “We want the site where the death house was intended to be placed to remain a green area for the benefit of the local population, and we encourage Bjarne to find a new site for the project," they said.
It’s official: Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s postmodern Manhattan skyscraper 550 Madison, better known as the AT&T Building, is now a protected landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously this morning to landmark the 1984 tower, making it the youngest building to receive landmark status in New York. A movement to protect the building began last year when developers Chelsfield America and Olayan America revealed plans to renovate the base of the tower. The contested (and protested) scheme from Snøhetta to strip the pink granite from the 110-foot-tall arch and loggias at the tower’s base and wrap it in glass drew immediate criticism when revealed in October 2017. The proposal would have unbalanced the tripartite arrangement between oversized openings at the base, in the central tower, and through the ornamental “Chippendale” topper, and preservationists and Johnson’s contemporaries rallied to prevent alterations. Before designating the AT&T Building as a landmark, commissioners noted the outpouring of support from residents, critics, and architects at the public hearing on June 19. Special attention was drawn to the building’s relatively recent completion date; Fred Bland, the interim chair of the commission, remarked that it was one of the rare buildings of which commissioners had experienced the original intent. To that end, commissioner Kim Vauss recounted that on a tour of the building in college she was struck by the grandeur of the original lobby. It was only years later that she would learn the original lobby was gone, AT&T’s Golden Boy statue having been removed by Sony in 1992, and the arcades having been converted into enclosed retail spaces in 2002. Keeping retail off of Madison Avenue and confined to the passage between East 56th Street and East 55th Street (now enclosed by a Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman-designed canopy added in 1994) was Johnson’s original intent, something that Sony disregarded during their occupation. The lobby was ineligible for landmarking as the ownership consortium–including minority partner RXR Realty–demolished the ground floor interior in February. The demolition is part of ownership’s plan to reorient the building by creating a large enclosed garden and seating area in the rear and to open up sightlines through the new lobby. The tower’s interiors, originally designed for 800 single-tenant employees, will be converted into Class A office space for up to 3,000 workers. 550 Madison’s ownership team released the following statement to AN: “We are proud that 550 Madison is now an official New York City landmark, claiming its place in our city’s architectural heritage. Ownership strongly supports designation of the iconic office tower and applauds the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision. Since acquiring the building, we have taken our role as stewards of this important building very seriously. We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the LPC and other stakeholders to preserve 550 Madison's legacy as a commercial Class A destination in East Midtown, with smart and sensitive modifications to serve modern tenants.” When reached for comment on what exactly the designation covers, the LPC issued the following statement: "The landmark site for the AT&T Corporate Headquarters Building is the tax block and lot (Tax Map Block 1291, Lot 10), and includes the exterior facades of the office tower and the annex, and the exterior facades of the enclosed covered passageway."
Several renowned North American firms, including New York-based practices Snøhetta and wHY Architecture, are among the ten finalists competing in an international competition to design two new waterfront parks in Toronto. Commissioned by Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the projects will, when complete, add to the city's growing collection of green spaces along its harbor. Over 40 teams submitted design proposals for the York Street and Rees Street Parks, both located at the heart of the city's waterfront. The design brief for York Street Park, a two-acre piece of land situated between the southern part of Toronto's Financial District and the York Quay residential neighborhood, called for amenities like event and green space, a water feature, public art, an architectural pavilion, and accommodation for dogs. Five finalists were chosen. In 'Park Vert', Agency Landscape + Planning partnered with DAVID RUBIN Land Collective to create a green oasis for locals inspired by Toronto’s urban forest. The design is multi-layered and includes a canopy to provide summer shade, a light walkway to create an elevated experience while walking through the park, and a 'forest floor' that incorporates a water fountain and different natural materials. Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects collaborated on 'York Forest', which features a massive canopy of vegetation housing a variety of human activities and natural systems. In the renderings, people, plants, and animals co-exist in an urban ecosystem. Located a few minutes east of the site for York Street Park, Rees Street Park is a 2.3-acre area set between Rogers Centre and Queens Quay West. Its brief asked entrants to design areas of play for all ages and abilities, as well as spaces for a market and other urban activities. In Stoss Landscape Urbanism and DTAH’s proposal titled 'Rees Landing', the park becomes a “testing ground for new forms of civic and ecological expression.” The architects make use of topographic moves to create an array of contrasting textures, playing with people’s experiences in the site. In 'The NEST', Snøhetta partnered with PMA Landscape Architects to create an 'experimental stage' at Rees Street Park that can be used year-round. Amenities include the Wall Crawl, the Alvar Mist, the Hammock Grove, the Backyard BBQ, and the Play Nest. The design also features retractable elements such as a glass wall that provides a seamless indoor-outdoor transition. Besides these innovative designs, the competition's public engagement process is noteworthy. A jury consisting of industry leaders will take into account feedback from local residents when determining the two winning design teams. You can view the proposals and survey the designs here. Construction of York Street Park is expected to start in 2019, while work on Rees Street Park will commence in 2020.
This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue. Read the first part of our Saudi Arabia feature here. With so many large-scale projects going up and wholly new urban areas in development, it can be hard to keep track of the myriad established architecture offices working across Saudi Arabia. Here is a quick guide to some of the biggest, tallest, and most cutting-edge projects in the works across the country. King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture Snøhetta Opening 2018 Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is the by-product of a design competition led by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company, which wanted a new knowledge incubator for Saudi Arabia to symbolize the nation’s aspirations for a diversified economy. The one-million-square-foot complex will feature a 930-seat Grand Hall as well as a cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum, and archive, among other offerings. The desert-bound structure is designed to resemble a series of stacked pebbles clad in parallel bands of metal piping. Inside, these give way to graphic, linear patterns that reveal a delicate metal structure underneath. Meanwhile, the Grand Hall's ceiling is wrapped in perforated copper panels. Jeddah Tower (formerly Kingdom Tower)| Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture; Calthorpe Associates Opening 2020 When completed, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s 3,280-foot Jeddah Tower will stand as the tallest building on Earth. The organically shaped pinnacle will be the focal point of the Kingdom City development (population: 210,000), a forthcoming $20 billion economic area master planned by Berkeley, California–based Calthorpe Associates for Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The tapered skyscraper is structured to mimic desert vegetation and is built with petal-shaped apartment blocks at its base. It will also contain a hotel, commercial spaces, and a variety of observation platforms above. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology BuroHappold; HOK Completed 2009 In 2009, St. Louis, Missouri–based HOK designed and built an 8,900-acre campus for the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, in just over 30 months. The 940-student university contains some of the most advanced scientific lab equipment in the world and features 5.5 million square feet spread across 27 buildings, including two million square feet of laboratories. The labs are arrayed across four 500,000-square-foot structures designed to be “flexible building shells” with universal floor plates that can accommodate different lab setups. The structures are wrapped in horizontal metal louvers to control for glare while the campus library is faced with translucent stone cladding that casts light from within at night. Haramain High-Speed Railway Stations Foster + Partners; BuroHappold Opening 2018 Foster + Partners and BuroHappold are working on a series of transformative high-speed rail (HSR) stations across the country as the Saudi government pushes to boost regional connectivity with a new 280-mile-long HSR line with stops in Medina, Mecca, Jeddah, and the King Abdullah Financial District. Designs for the stations are meant to seed new urban areas in each locale by fusing cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior spaces with strategically-placed solid facades to limit solar gain, overhead bridges to create covered outdoor spaces around the stations, and direct connections to the country’s most bustling cities. The line is expected to open sometime this year and will carry 135 million passengers per year by 2042. King Abdullah Financial District Henning Larsen; SOM Opening 2020 Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen has master planned a new business district on the northern edge of Riyadh, where 59 high-rise towers are now in the works. The firm took inspiration from the city’s historic center when calibrating the positioning of each of those towers, generating a taut, tall cluster of angled and closely set monoliths. The arrangement is designed to minimize solar penetration into the city, resulting in ambient temperatures—the designers hope—up to ten degrees cooler than surrounding areas. The massive, nearly complete development area has been in the works for years and features contributions from SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and many others. King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center Zaha Hadid Architects Opening 2018 Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) recently completed the 750,000-square-foot KAPSARC (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center) complex, a nonprofit research institution focused on “policies that contribute to the most effective use of energy to provide social well-being across the globe.” The honeycomb-shaped complex is designed to optimize solar and wind orientation and is made up of five buildings clustered around a series of interlocking courtyards topped by metal canopies. The complex, which opened earlier this year, was one of the final projects Hadid oversaw. Among other features, it includes a 300-seat auditorium, a library with 100,000 volumes in its archive, and an inspirational prayer area called a Musalla.
This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue and will be followed by a list of the largest projects currently underway in Saudi Arabia. When work on the Kingdom Tower by architects Adrian Smith Gordon Gill (ASGG) is completed in 2020 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its elevators will bring visitors up to the building’s highest residential floors 114 stories up in roughly 52 seconds, where views will stretch out over the Red Sea and beyond. The trip, dizzying as it might sound, is symbolic of the speed at which Saudi Arabia is embracing new globalized perspectives as it seeks to pivot away from oil and toward a diverse, sustainable economy via its Saudi Vision 2030 plan, an initiative that seeks to crystallize this transformation. United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently touted the efforts at an economic summit, saying, “We're standing with [the Saudis] as they're about to transform both their society and their economy. This new move I think could be even more dramatic and more far-reaching for the whole geopolitical sector than was the original hydrocarbon." He means it could be more transformative than oil. The nation has been undergoing change for some time now, as it embarks on the early stages of fulfilling the dream of its recently-deceased monarch—King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed away in 2015—who sought to re-open Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world after a period of relative isolation. Abdullah’s initial plans involved developing several economic development zones that function outside of domestic norms and laws. These new areas aim to make the Kingdom a node for global finance between the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, seek to spur innovation at home with investments in universities, and look to boost appeal among tourists and pilgrims to its many religious and cultural sites. The effort has continued under the new king—Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud—and the heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who are enacting further reforms under the mantle of their Saudi Vision 2030 program. Vision 2030 The many changes are due to necessity more than anything else—over 70 percent of the Saudi population is less than 30 years old—while job and housing prospects for this group are anemic under the existing models. To boot, over 200,000 Saudis are currently earning professional and academic degrees abroad and will eventually join ascendant Saudi millennials in demanding steady, well-paying jobs (and relaxed social mores) that the oil economy simply will not be able to provide. The National Transformation Program, part of Vision 2030, calls for creating more than 450,000 new jobs for Saudis by 2020, increasing the private sector’s contribution to the national GDP, and boosting housing production and incentivizing housing affordability across the country. New cities and neighborhoods will be developed to meet this need, with Saudi authorities expecting to spend more than $78 billion on Vision 2030 initiatives between 2016 and 2020 alone. The new cities, infrastructure, and urban monuments that result will embody the manifold economic reforms the state wishes to embrace as it moves forward. Vision 2030 seeks to add no fewer than five new megacities and many smaller developments to the country over the next decade or so. These large and multifaceted developments, generally speaking, will be designed to have regionally specific industrial focuses like global finance, agribusiness, and religious tourism, and will be connected via new transportation investments like high-speed rail on the west coast and an upgraded central airport in the capital city of Riyadh and the country’s second largest city, Jeddah. The result, should it come to pass, will be one of massive change embodied by glimmering, faceted towers, cul-de-sac-bound streets, and tightly packed townhouses. As new reforms take off, and earlier experiments come online, questions on the nature of the coming changes abound. Is the sacrifice of historic and natural sites in the name of progress worthwhile? Will the reforms stave off social unrest in the future? New Cities A recently announced plan calls for the creation of a new multinational economic area called NEOM, a 10,230-square-mile purpose-built city (nearly 34 times larger in area than New York City) planned on the edge of the Red Sea. The megacity, focused on energy, water, biotechnology, and food production, is expected to cost $500 billion and will be jointly developed with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, all of which share borders or Red Sea access with the development. Although an official master plan for the region has not been unveiled, a design document prepared for the area calls for “opulent buildings with modern and traditional Moroccan-style architecture." Like other forthcoming economic zones, NEOM will be designed with judicial and governing bodies that exist outside traditional Saudi governmental structures, a bid to leapfrog over incremental reforms and develop globalization-friendly areas that are attractive to young Saudis, international investors, and tourists. At least four other economic zones were planned prior to MBS’s tenure, including the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), a 17.2-million-square-foot development master planned by Danish architects Henning Larsen on the northern edge of Riyadh. After lengthy delays, the leaf-shaped business district will be complete later this year. According to Henning Larsen, the district is planned in tightly grouped clusters of high-rise office and residential towers that are organized to mitigate solar heat gain. The faceted towers connect via networks of elevated skyways and will frame lively pedestrian zones along lower levels inspired by the region’s seasonal wadi riparian landscapes. Here, pedestrians will find shelter from the crippling heat while infrastructural elements capture and recycle runoff and rainwater. Overhead trams will provide further shade while the buildings’ varied geometries deflect direct sunlight. The firm studied the site’s solar and wind patterns intensely in order to generate a development envelope and site plan for KAFD that work together to bring down ambient temperatures by as much as ten degrees. KAFD will be connected to the rest of the city by a new metro system—one of many ground-up transit systems being built across the country—that will include six transit lines with 85 stations and 110 miles of track. The system is being developed by Bechtel, Siemens, Alstom, and Samsung, while station design is being undertaken by international architecture offices, including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and Snøhetta. At the center of the citadel will be HOK’s Central Market Authority Tower. Developed with Saudi architects Omrania, the 76-story office building will feature triangulated exterior walls wrapped in an outward layer of horizontal fins and perforated metal panels. The highly articulated building will be joined by 58 other skyscrapers designed by various international firms, including SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and others. Describing the project, Roger Soto, senior vice president at HOK, said, “We carefully designed the building to be a part of [its] place.” Another new economic zone is the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) outside of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. The 65-square-mile development is master planned by a consortium led by SOM and BuroHappold and is billed as “a new world city for Saudi Arabia” that will take the country “far beyond the oil-based economy,” according to Fahd Al-Rasheed, managing director and CEO of KAEC. The new megacity will ultimately house two million residents and is located near the major cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. Carved into successive coastal, industrial, port, and business zones, the district will include the aforementioned Jeddah Tower by ASGG, which is currently under construction in the city’s “financial island,” a central business district. The nearby King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, also by HOK, opened in 2009 as the kingdom’s first co-ed university. The two nodes will sit at the nexus of the Haramain HSR line connecting Medina in the north with KAEC, Jeddah, and Mecca to the south. The rail line will feature stations designed by Foster + Partners and BuroHappold that are meant to act as large-scale welcome portals to each city. Each station is unique to its locale, but all present cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior volumes with intricate structural detailing. The stations, designed to strategically avoid direct solar glare and filled with wide-ranging functions, will also create accessible pedestrian zones at each stop, allowing travelers to seamlessly arrive into town car-free. When the 280-mile-long HSR line opens sometime this year, it will effectively create a contiguous urban spine along Saudi Arabia’s west coast with economic, educational, civic, and religious nodes. Two other economic cities are in the works, including the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) outside of Medina that will focus on intellectual property, knowledge-based industries, and medical, hospitality, tourism, and multimedia endeavors. The development is planned by AECOM as a residential hub and will offer housing for 150,000 Saudis across four distinct neighborhoods populated by apartment blocks, townhouses, and detached homes. The city will aim to provide roughly 20,000 jobs and is planned to contain large shopping and commercial areas. KEC is currently under development and is expected to be finished in 2025—five years later than originally anticipated. Smaller satellite cities across the country, anchored by cultural, academic, or economic institutions—like ZHA's King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) in Riyadh—are also in development. The energy- and technology-focused think tank headquarters and cultural center is envisaged as a cluster of courtyard pods. The building is joined nearby by the KAPSARC Community, a new 200-home sustainable neighborhood by HOK. The 500-acre development features umbrella-shaded community spaces, a spiritual district, and neat rows of geometric, off-white villas. HOK is also at work on a similar arts-focused community located beside Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (KACWC) in Dhahran. Snøhetta’s pebble-shaped cultural center contains an auditorium, a cinema, a library, and a museum, among other services, all spread out across a stack of bulbous, metal-tube-wrapped volumes. In creating a complementary residential component to KACWC, design principal Roger Schwabacher and his team at HOK aimed to “create a place to celebrate traditional Saudi craft that also doubles as a next-generation incubator space” for Saudi creatives, Schwabacher said. Too Much Too Fast? In the city of Mecca, however, development is moving too quickly for some. Mecca is the Holiest City in Islam and hosts over 2.4 million pilgrims during the 2017 Hajj and Umrah annual pilgrimages. Efforts are underway to expand that number to north of 17 million pilgrims in coming decades, a prospect that has resulted in many renovations and large new public and private works. Recent hotel expansions, in particular, have led to the loss of much of the historic fabric surrounding the Great Mosque at the center of the city. In 2013, for example, the house of Muhammad's first wife, Khadījah bint Khuwaylid, was torn down and replaced with a new public bathroom facility intended to handle the increased visitors. The loss, one of several high-profile demolitions in recent years, angered many and brought into question the lengths Saudi officials are taking to solidify tourism as an economic force in the country. Other high-profile improvements include the addition of wheelchair-accessible viewing ramps to the Great Mosque, as well as a forthcoming expansion of the Great Mosque’s worship spaces that will double capacity to 1.2 million worshipers. All of these changes can now be seen from the city’s tallest spire, the Abraj Al Bait tower, by German architecture firm SL Rasch GmbH. The 1,972-foot-tall Big Ben–like structure is rooted in a cluster of midrise hotel and shopping mall towers and was completed in 2011, ushering in a wave of high-rise development directly beside the Great Mosque. The massive clock-tower-topped complex is now joined by the multiphase Jabal al Kaaba hotel, an even more tightly packed cluster of mixed-use towers containing a total of 8,500 hotel rooms. The projects will soon be joined by additional developments by Foster + Partners, HOK, and other international offices. The Foster + Partners project, for example, will bring a crystalline bundle of hotel and apartment towers conceived under a philosophy of “luxury with humility,” marketing speak meant to attract wealthy pilgrims to the new high-end residences. Once completed in a few years, the project will function as a gateway to the new multimodal King Abdul Aziz Road, a 2.27-mile-long spine of development connecting central Mecca with the country’s transportation network. The road will contain a 200-foot-wide promenade and will be surrounded by 100,000 residential units and 28,000 hotel rooms. Regardless of the reception, however, one thing is clear: In Saudi Arabia, the future is almost here, and it looks very, very big.