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KAFD National Aquarium

Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.

Shared By

Joltman, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.

Project Name

KAFD National Aquarium


King Abdullah Financial District

Year Completed



13,629 sq. meters

Construction Cost



Rayadah Investment Company / Hill International Middle East Ltd.


  • Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA)
  • : Vanderweil Engineers
  • Electrical Engineer: Vanderweil Engineers
  • Landscape Architect: EDSA
  • Davis Langdon, an AECOM Company
  • Rolf Jensen & Associates
  • Acentech
  • Lighting Designer: Available Light
  • Richard Lewis Media Group
  • Walker Parking Consultants

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Project Description

The National Aquarium of Saudi Arabia will be centrally located in a new development complex in Riyadh; the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). This facility is organized as two giant curved volumes around a Grand Hall, with major public entrances from KAFD skywalk system at the upper level and by pedestrian access at Plaza Level and a below-grade pedestrian spine thematically reminiscent of the traditional Wadi, the center of community activity. These entrances will accommodate visitors as well as school groups and VIPs.

C7A developed the concept based upon the dynamic nature of ocean currents, extending the metaphor to create an architectural expression of sweeping, faceted building forms. Rippling bands of steel panels, glass and stone on the exterior reflect the program within providing a unique expression for the Aquarium. Water features and elements both inside and out unfold to heighten the visitor’s anticipation of the journey ahead.

The plan captures the energy and dynamics of ocean currents as the geometry of the floor plates sweeps on both sides of the building, containing a central Grand Hall and creating a fluid sense of place for the experience. Visitors come to a central ticketing lobby and move upwards in dramatic fashion on glass elevators bringing them to the top of the building and the terrestrial habitat. From here, the visitor travels downward into the various living exhibits, crossing from one exhibit to another through the central space between the “currents.”
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