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Top 12 Interesting Facts about the Kingdom Centre

Our list of fabulous skyscrapers features an incredible number of designs. This is pretty much a testimony to human creativity.

Twisting skyscrapers such as the Turning Torso, ultra-thin skyscrapers such as the Steinway Tower, and yes, skyscrapers that look like a bottle opener.

One of these can be found in the capital city of Saudi Arabia and is a structure that adds another dimension to this city’s skyline.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Kingdom Centre, arguably one of the most fascinating structures ever constructed.

1. It’s located in the central part of Riyad

If there’s one skyscraper that sticks out of the impressive skyline of Riyad, then it’s certainly the Kingdom Centre.

That’s mainly because of the remarkable design of the tower which features a hole at the top and a skybridge (more about this later).

Riyad is the capital city of Saudi Arabia and is situated right in the middle of the an-Nafud desert. It’s located on a plateau at an average height of 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level which makes the winter months somewhat bearable.

The summer months, however, are excruciatingly hot. This makes it all the more remarkable that this fast-growing city has well over 7.5 million inhabitants.

The skyscraper described in this article is located in the middle of the city, slightly to the west and right in between two of the city’s main thoroughfares.

Kingdom Center Riyad

2. The building was commissioned by the “Arabian Warren Buffett”

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The tower isn’t brand new like many other buildings in the city as it has been dominating the city’s skyline for over 20 years already.

It was constructed between 1999 and 2002 and was commissioned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. He is the grandson of grandson of Abdulaziz, the first king of Saudi Arabia.

He has been dubbed the “Arabian Warren Buffett” because he is the chief owner of the “Kingdom Holding Company,” an investment company that owns chunks of companies all around the world.

Granted, his road to incredible wealth was significantly easier than that of Warren Buffett. After all, the Saudi Royal family was already filthy rich before he set up this company.

He is considered to be one of the most influential people in the world and has helped significantly shape the skyline of Riyad for multiple decades.

Riyad Skyline Kingdom Tower
An alternative view of the Riyad skyline / Wiki Commons

3. The tower was partially designed by an American firm from Minneapolis

The Saudi Prince with stunningly deep pockets launched an international design competition to find a suiting design for his new skyscraper in the late 1990s.

The winners were a team of Ellerbe Becket, an architectural firm based in Minneapolis, and Omrania, a local Saudi architectural firm based in Riyad.

Omrania has been involved in several projects in their native city, including the KAFD Grand Mosque and the Capital Market Authority Tower. The latter is the centerpiece of the King Abdullah Financial District and the highest skyscraper in Riyad at 385 meters (1,263 feet).

Ellerbe Becket was acquired by AECOM in 2009, exactly 100 years after it was founded in 1909. The architectural firm based in Minneapolis was involved in numerous high-level projects, especially stadiums and arenas in the United States.

Kingdom Tower Riyad
Detail of the tower’s amazing design / Maher Najim / Wiki Commons

4. It’s the third-tallest skyscraper in the world that features a hole

The tower’s design is dominated by the enormous hole near the top that is topped with a so-called skybridge that is made of glass.

It was one of the first major buildings in the world to incorporate such a design and stands 302.3 meters (991.8 feet) tall.

It was the tallest skyscraper in Riyad upon completion although it has been surpassed since; It’s still the 5th-tallest skyscraper in Saudi Arabia today.

One of the most intriguing facts about the Kingdom Centre is that there are only two skyscrapers in the world with a design featuring a hole taller than the tower in Riyad.

These are the Shanghai World Financial Center (492 meters / 1,614.2 feet) in Shanghai and the 85 Sky Tower (347.5 meters / 1,140 feet) in Taiwan.

Shanghai world financial center skyscraper in shanghai
The Shanghai World Financial Center / Wiki Commons

5. The skybridge on top of the building provides amazing views of the city

The glass skybridge on top of the skyscraper isn’t merely a decorative feature, it has a practical purpose as well.

This section serves as an observation deck and is a tourist attraction. It’s located at a height of 290.4 meters (952.76 feet) above the ground below.

This observation deck allows you to get an amazing view of the city below and its amazing skyline, especially at night.

Kingdom Centre Skybridge View at night
The view from inside the skybridge / SamDeLong / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about the Kingdom Centre

6. The skyscraper was constructed on an area that covers over 100,000 square meters (1.076 million square feet). To provide support in the desert sand, a concrete raft foundation of 3,100 square meters (33,368 square feet) with a thickness of 4 meters was constructed first.

7. The floor count of the building is 41. The skybridge is a feature that was integrated to circumvent the local floor limit of 30 floors at the time. This allowed the observation deck to be integrated much higher.

Riyad Skyline at night
The stunning Riyad skyline / B. Alotaby / Wiki Commons

8. The building is used for a wide variety of purposes. It’s the home of the Al-Mamlaka shopping mall, which covers an area of 57,000 square meters (613,543 square feet), and the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh. It also features offices and luxury apartments.

9. The skybridge is a steel structure that weighs approximately 300 tonnes. It takes on the shape of a corridor and is enclosed with glass on both sides to provide stunning views of the city.

10. The almond-shaped design and curving forms ensure the building stays as possible during the hot summer months. The curtain wall features reflecting glazing to help to keep the temperature down.

Kingdom Centre area

11. Despite the unique appearance upon completion in the early 21st century, the tower’s inverted arch was inspired by several other structures. Some of these include the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

12. So how much did it cost to construct this epitome of modernist architecture? The total cost was SR 1.7 billion or the equivalent of US$453 million, quite an expensive building indeed!

Kingdom Centre facts