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King Abdullah Gardens out to tender

The design for ‘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 - has been completed and is due to go out for tender shortly.

Architecture and planning consultancy Barton Willmore and engineering consultancy Buro Happold won an international competition in 2007 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 features a 10-hectare building which will house the world’s largest indoor garden – the size of 15 football pitches or five Eden Projects. KAIG will be set within a 160 ha site in the arid desert of the Saudi central region and, as a cornerstone of the City of Riyadh’s growth plans, will provide a new destination for Saudis 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 the choices we now need to make.

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 – all designed by the world’s leading specialist engineers using state-of-the art modelling tools.

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.

Buro Happold project principal and partner Jerry Young said: “While we have extensive experience in the design and construction of cutting-edge projects in the Middle East, 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.

“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.”

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