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Zaha Hadid Architects unveils wetland preservation centre for Saudi Arabia

Zaha Hadid Architects has revealed its winning design for the Urban Heritage Administration Centre, a preservation centre for a UNESCO-protected oasis in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The 8,780-square-metre building designed by British firm Zaha Hadid Architects(ZHA) will contain facilities dedicated to protect the Wadi Hanifah valley, a 120-kilometre-long wetland that cuts through the city of Diriyah.

It will include a gallery, library, lecture hall and educational spaces, as well as a scientific institute for conducting field research and documentation of archaeological sites.

These will be arranged around an eye-shaped atrium with branching columns and a pool of water in its base – a reference to the wetlands. Four similarly shaped holes will be scooped through the slatted facade of the rectilinear building.

“The waters of this rich and habitable oasis lie within the vast expanse of the Najd central plateau,” said a statement from ZHA.

“This concept is translated within the Urban Heritage Administration Centre by organising its facilities around an atrium with water at its core, as well as four scooped green oases within its apparently solid facade,” it continued.

The studio will reference the traditional rammed-earth architecture of Diriyah to ensure the building is protected from the heat and sunlight.

This manifests itself in a double-layered facade featuring a perforated outer skin intended to shade the building while still permitting views out.

The Urban Heritage Administration Centre competition was initiated in 2015, making it one of over 30 projects under development by ZHA at the time of its founder Zaha Hadid’s death earlier this year.

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