The new King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. Courtesy: Snøhetta.

Saudi Arabia’s $400 Million Cultural Center to Open this Summer

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran will become fully operational by this summer, according to the Art Newspaper. The complex, also known as Ithra, will be the country’s largest cultural center and will be dedicated to promoting the arts and heritage of Saudi Arabia.

The center, a colossal stainless-steel building located along the Persian Gulf, was funded by the government-owned oil conglomerate Aramco and designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, whose past projects include the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Snøhetta won a design competition for the center in 2007 and began construction the following year. With more than one million square feet of facilities, for which construction costs totaled around $400 million, the institution will include a cinema, library, auditorium, exhibition hall, museum, and archive. Consisting of eighteen floors dedicated to educational programming, its “Knowledge Tower” will host workshops on subjects across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Ithra’s museum will incorporate four galleries, including one focused on Islamic design and heritage and another on modern and contemporary art in the Middle East. The institution will also implement pedagogical programming for local and international audiences.

The center was officially inaugurated by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on December 1. As part of its Bridges initiative, a cultural exchange and global outreach program, the center collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum on “Ahmed Mater: Mecca Journeys,” an exhibition on urbanization in Mecca, which will remain on view in Brooklyn through April 8, 2018.