As a gift to the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a contest was established, in 2007, to build a 160-acre botanical garden on the desert near to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The British architectural firm Barton Wilmore International presented the winning design, and the construction of the colossal King Abdullah International Gardens is scheduled to begin in 2015.
The main building has the shape of a crescent moon and will feature two interwoven structures with dome-shaped roofs that will host several pavilions dedicated to specific botanical periods. This 20-acre area with climate control will allow visitors to admire the flora on a journey through time, from the Cenozoic, the Jurassic and the Cretaceous eras until the evolution of modern plants. At the same time, the garden will feature sanctuaries for birds and exotic butterflies, as well as areas for recreation and scientific research.
The environmental engineering firm Buro Happold, alongside the consulting firm Omrania & Associates and the National Museum of Saudi Arabia will also contribute to this ambitious project.
A team of experienced professionals has come up with a series of sustainable initiatives for the complex in the desert, including 120-foot high Teflon roofs to maintain a cooler temperature, electricity powered mainly by solar panels and wind generators, and underground tanks for the accumulation of rainwater, which will be subsequently treated and filtered for use in the vast gardens.
The Riyadh Government and the contribution of many local private companies fund King Abdullah International Garden. Its long list of facilities includes the Scientific and Water Gardens, aimed to explore water in all its forms; the Medicine Garden, which exhibits the millenary practices of Islamic medicine; as well as the Bird Sanctuary and the Garden of Light and Sound.
This architectural gem that bears the name of the Saudi King will attract visitors from every corner of the globe for its aesthetic, scientific and cultural value. The new amusement park that evokes the mythical Arab gardens will be one more excuse to visit this attractive Middle Eastern region. ■