royal diriyah opera house: snøhetta's cultural oasis in desert of saudi arabia

royal diriyah opera house: snøhetta's cultural oasis in desert of saudi arabia

snøhetta takes to saudi arabia


In the historic heart of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, Snøhetta has unveiled its forward-thinking design for the Royal Diriyah Opera House. Drawing inspiration from the local Najdi architecture, the proposed opera house reflects a deep connection to the surrounding desert landscape, cultural heritage, and traditional building techniques. Part of a broader initiative to reinvigorate the ancient area, the opera house will stand as a cultural beacon within a master plan aimed at transforming the region into vibrant, contemporary destinations. Scheduled to open in 2028, the project is spearheaded by the Diriyah Company and operated by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.

snøhetta opera saudi arabiavisualizations © Binyan



royal diriyah opera house: a desert oasis 


The architects at Snøhetta have designed the Royal Diriyah Opera House as a cluster of interconnected buildings, offering a shaded oasis from the desert heat. Intertwining green gardens, accessible to both opera house visitors and the wider public, seamlessly integrates public spaces, enriching cultural and recreational experiences and emphasizing the location’s intrinsic value. Situated on the banks of the Wadi Hanifah valley, the Diriyah area, birthplace of the first Saudi state, historically featured oasis communities with Najdi-style mud-brick structures. Today, undergoing a transformative renewal, the area preserves cultural heritage while embracing Saudi traditions and heritage.

snøhetta opera saudi arabia



drawing from regional vernacular


Snøhetta’s design for the opera house pays homage to the vernacular archetypes of Diriyah, along with local crafts, and the surrounding desert. The concept, rooted in the idea of earth transformation from Wadi riverbeds, results in a cluster of buildings rising from the ground, constructed with natural materials such as palm, stone, and earth. Influenced by the linearity of the region’s geometric forms, history, and craft, Snøhetta explores patterns in materials to create distinct textures, offering new perspectives on traditional shapes.

snøhetta opera saudi arabia



Spanning 46,000 square meters, the opera house comprises four venues catering to different performance types. A 2000-seat opera theatre, a 450-seat adaptable theatre, and a 450-seat multipurpose theatre cater to diverse events, while a 450-seat shaded rooftop amphitheater adds an outdoor dimension to the overall experience. Further programming includes a visitor services pavilion, a café, retail spaces, and a distinctive shaded rooftop amphitheater, creating a multifaceted cultural destination.

snøhetta opera saudi arabia



Strategically oriented buildings create shaded outdoor zones accessible to the public, extending the cultural and recreational essence beyond performance attendees. These spaces feature vegetation, water misting, and careful selection of endemic plant species, fostering biodiversity and a climate-specific ecosystem. The opera house is designed to meet the highest environmental standards, incorporating water conservation, efficient lighting, building orientation, and thermal comfort strategies.


The design optimizes open spaces and natural lighting while employing approaches to reduce embodied carbon for concrete and steel structures. The roof surface of the largest building volume will support photovoltaic installations, contributing significantly to on-site or grid-wide clean energy production. Radiant cooling in specific areas will be achieved through chilled ceiling panels and displacement ventilation.

royal diriyah opera house: snøhetta's cultural oasis in desert of saudi arabia




project info:


project title: Royal Diriyah Opera House

architecture: Snøhetta | @snohetta

location: Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

client: Diriyah Company ​

completion: ​expected 2028

visualizations: © Binyan | @binyanstudios

​operator: Royal Commission of Riyadh City
​size: 46,000 square meters

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

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