schlaich bergermann partner is proud to be part of the team led by Snøhetta that has been chosen to design an opera house in the historic area of Diriyah in Saudi Arabia, creating a new stage for future generations of performers and audiences.
The Royal Diriyah Opera House is part of a wider master plan to redevelop the ancient Diriyah area on the outskirts of Riyadh into new vibrant destinations and communities while being embedded in the region’s cultural heritage and vernacular architecture. Scheduled to open in 2028, the opera house will be built by Diriyah Company and operated by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.
The 46,000 square meter opera house will accommodate around 3,500 people distributed across four venues, each tailored to specific types of performances.
At the core, a 2000-seat opera theatre will set the stage for large-scale productions and headline artists. Complementing this, a 450-seat adaptable theatre and a 450-seat multipurpose theatre will host smaller events, interactive programming, and rehearsals.
A 450-seat, shaded rooftop amphitheater will be a prominent feature, accommodating outdoor performances and adding a unique dimension to the overall experience. This iconic project will also include a diverse array of facilities, including a visitor services pavilion, as well as a café and a retail space.
The project is designed to achieve compliance with the highest environmental regulations by considering water conservation, lighting, building orientation, and thermal comfort strategies that reduce unnecessary energy and water wastage. Utilizing open spaces and natural lighting efficiently have all been considered in the design.
Various approaches will also be applied to reduce embodied carbon for concrete and steel structures. In addition, the roof surface of the largest building volume will create a suitable ground for PV installation due to high solar exposure, contributing significantly to on-site or grid-wide clean energy production. Radiant cooling will be achieved in specific areas through chilled ceiling panels and displacement ventilation.
Located on the banks of the Wadi Hanifah valley, the Diriyah area is the ancient birthplace of the first Saudi state. Known for its unique nature, it historically fostered oasis communities in a string of towns, hamlets, and villages using the vernacular architecture style known as Najdi to create almost entirely mud-brick structures, closely clustered to ensure constant condition of shade.
Today, the area includes protected cultural heritage and is undergoing a major transformation to become a renewed cultural and historic capital built with Saudi traditions and heritage in mind.
The design for the new opera house responds to these vernacular archetypes, local crafts, and its surrounding desert landscape such as the dry Wadi riverbeds. The concept is built on the idea of earth from the riverbeds, which crack when exposed to the hot sun, is molded by wind and rain, and then finds a new shape as separate forms.
This idea formed the cluster of buildings, which appears to be rising from the ground with open passages throughout. Embracing the values of the Najdi cultural identity, the natural material choices of the building mass are a mixture of palm, stone, and earth.
Official Project Name: Royal Diriyah Opera House
Location: Diriyah, Saudi Arabia
Client: Diriyah Company
Operator: Royal Commission of Riyadh City
Size: 46,000 m²
Typology: Performance Space, Public Space
Expected Completion: 2028
Architect and Lead Design Consultant: Snøhetta
Snøhetta’s disciplines include architecture, landscape architecture and interior architecture. Snøhetta also delivers BIM Management.
Consultants and collaborators:
Plan A Consultants, Syn Architects, JLL, Penguin Cube, Tricon, Arup, Saudi Diyar, Buro Happold, schlaich bergermann partner, Theatre Projects, Spec Studio, Evergreen Adcon, Fractal Landscape, Transsolar, Maha Mullah.