Implementation of conservation & development works in historic Diriyah, a Unesco world heritage site – Saudi Arabia

Project information
Project partners
  • Client: ADA (Arriyadh Development Authority)
  • Engineering Design and Construction Project Management: Buro Happold
  • Architecture & Landscape: ASG Architects + Planners
  • Architecture:  Tropman & Tropman Architects 
  • Heritage architects & restoration: CIAH (Centre for Conservation & Preservation of Islamic Architectural Heritage)
  • Heritage architects & restoration: Dr. Mahmoud Bendakir (MB Conservation)
  • Engineering supervision: Saudi Consulting Services
  • Contractors: Freyssinet Saudi Arabia and ICC
  • Primary exhibit designers: Studio Adeline Rispal

Project description

Dr. Mahmoud Bendakir worked on this project as a heritage architect and mud-brick conservation expert with the project partners from the preparation of the UNESCO nomination file of the site (between 2006 and 2009) through to the execution of the conservation, restoration, adaptive reuse, and development works. From 2012 to the end of 2015, Dr. Bendakir was engaged by ADA as a Heritage consultant and was a permanent member of the site management and supervision team.

Brief project description

Since the signature of the contract, late 2011, between Dr. Mahmoud Bendakir, ADA, and Buro Happold, our specialists were part of the site management team working for the coordination and supervision of the implementation phase for the conservation and development of at’Turaif, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The conservation and development project of at-Turaif quarter in Diriyah aims to implement the client’s strategic decisions and a site management plan for heritage conservation, tourist development, and urban management within the World Heritage Site perimeter and in the buffer zone. It defines a carefully planned institutional framework that aims to meet the requirements of UNESCO for at-Turaif as a World Heritage Site while serving as part of a larger environmental and urban project for the future development of Riyadh city, the capital of the Kingdom.

It is also important to know that at-Turaif development project aims at setting quality standards in the field of urban and earthen architectural conservation and development, taking into consideration the UNESCO Convention and international recommendations and charters. During the execution of the conservation work, the at-Turaif project was regarded by the scientific community and international experts as a unique opportunity to follow an extraordinary living laboratory where purposely designed conservation and management solutions are tested and applied every day.

Such a large-scale conservation and development operation needs to be driven by a multidisciplinary team able to guarantee its success. From the early phases of this project, ADA and the Saudi authorities were aware of the challenge of this large-scale operation, so a number of highly qualified national and international bodies and experts, coming from different fields, have already collaborated for the success of this ambitious program.

The considerable challenge of this project took into consideration the following parameters:

  • The large scale of the operation that can be considered as a first experience worldwide in the field of earthen conservation and construction
  • The complexity of the project, covering urban intervention, landscaping, heritage conservation, archaeological preservation, restoration, adaptive reuse of a large number of monuments, and development, all concurrently
  • The future use of this project as a reference in this field and as a basis for standards for similar sites
  • The implementation of a large number of projects all together
  • The considerable number of stakeholders and partners coming from various cultural and professional horizons
  • The extraordinary experience for the national and international scientific community as an opportunity for capacity building and upskilling of professionals and contractors.