Zaha Hadid Architects’ new energy research centre is fit for a king

White, futuristic building in a desert setting
Riyadh’s King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Photography: Hufton+Crow
(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Architecture doesn’t always exist to push the boundaries. Sometimes a building is just an enclosure, a pragmatic form undefined by the activities within. Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has never subscribed to the cult of quiet functionalism – the more complex a building’s use, the more radical the form. Perhaps that’s why Riyadh’s new King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KASPSARC) is such a dramatic and radical statement, even by the high standards of the studio.

KAPSARC’s brief is as a desert laboratory, a place where the vested interests of the petrochemical industry can take a long, hard look at where their industry is going and what it has done – one of the research briefs is ‘studying the technological, economic and environmental impacts of energy’. Perhaps as an indicator of things to come, ZHA has designed the structure to make minimal energy demands in a region renowned for its extreme climate.

Interior of the building is comprised of irregular white panels with windows

Riyadh’s new King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Photography: Hufton + Crow

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Focused on a central research building, with angular prows that jut out across the landscaping, the architecture combines structural boldness with complex patterns on the walls and ceilings, giving the long Islamic tradition of geometric form a literal twist. The modular construction allows for future expansion, while covered outdoor circulation areas help mitigate the effects of solar radiation.

Perhaps most notably, the building’s musalla (the open space outside a mosque) is the country’s very first prayer space to be designed by a woman. Proof that Zaha Hadid is still having a posthumous influence on design.

Entrance to the building, comprised of irregular panels and a long window made out of triangles

The entrance of the research centre

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Large white prayer area with blue carpet

The building’s musalla (the open space outside a mosque) is the country’s first prayer space to be designed by a woman

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

Roof consisting of white panels forming an irregular, jutted appearance

The windcatcher roof

(Image credit: Hufton + Crow)

INFORMATION
For more information, visit the Zaha Hadid Architects website (opens in new tab)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.