New museum celebrating the architectural and cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia, featuring a facade with a curved shading screen of metal fins to protect the building and its occupants from the harsh desert climate.

The historic walled city of Diriyah sits on the outskirts of Riyadh. Featuring multiple areas of archaeological significance, including a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has been chosen as the location for Saudi Arabia’s Urban Heritage Centre. The new 8000 square-metre museum contains exhibits and education spaces celebrating the country’s architectural and cultural heritage, and establishes a scientific research centre for Diriyah’s significant archaeological sites.

The region’s desert climate has necessitated a facade strategy that can cope with extreme temperatures. Eckersley O’Callaghan has developed a glazed design, over-clad with an external shading screen of 1500 unique curved and twisted metal fins that give the building its distinctive sinuous form, while protecting the interior from the sun.

The external shading screen is a complex facade system, composed of free form metal cladding elements and secondary steel structure acting together to achieve great spans and cantilevers.

We have carried out detailed environmental analysis to optimise the fin arrangement in both minimising solar gain and ensuring comfortable interior light levels, while also maximising views out to the museum’s spectacular surroundings.

The twisting form of the fins has required extensive geometric rationalisation to achieve buildability, and extremely complex structural analysis so that the fins can attain the slender profiles intended by the architect while maintaining structural stability.

Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage

Zaha Hadid Architects