The Royal Commission for Riyadh City focused on metropolitan downtown development starting with Qasr Al-Hukm District, the heart of the city, to revitalize its historic role as the political, cultural and commercial center of Riyadh.
A comprehensive strategy was developed to cover all aspects of Qasr Al-Hukm Development Project depending on conclusions of the relevant detailed studies. The strategy’s key axes are as follows:
The development project was completed in 1403H – 1982 and was divided into the following three phases:
Qasr Al-Hukm District Development Project began in 1976. In 1979, designs of Riyadh Governorate, Municipality and Police Headquarters Buildings were ready. The construction works in these facilities began in 1983 as Phase One of the project and was completed in 1988.
The second phase started in 1988 (Shawwal, 1408H) after completion of the architectural and engineering design. This phase was completed in 1992 and included Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque, Qasr Al-Hukm, Al-Adl Plaza, Assafah Plaza, Imam Muhammad bin Saud Plaza, Al-Musmak Plaza, Al-Thumairi Gate, and Dekhna Gate, Ad-Deerah Tower, sections of the city old wall, as well as public service networks, internal and surrounding road network, and commercial and office buildings.
The third and final Phase of Qasr Al-Hukm Development Project focused on winning confidence of the private sector to be actively involved in the development process. This phase covers an area of 320,000 m², i.e. about 60% of the total area of Qasr Al-Hukm District.
During this phase, headquarters of some institutions were constructed like the High Court, Civil Defense, Sheikh Muhammad bin Ibrahim Al Alsheikh Mosque, Dekhna Plaza, Az-Zall Souq, and modern seven commercial complexes.
Qasr Al-Hukm District Development Project represents a prominent success in unveiling traits of the past in a modern way. The Royal Commission for Riyadh City was keen on highlighting the originality of the area, which represents the historical heart of the city.
Qasr Al-Hukm design depended on the traditional architectural styles and consisted of two sections:
The southern section has six floors and four towers and takes the form of a fortress that symbolizes strength. This section has a fifth tower at the center of Qasr Al-Hukm for lightening and ventilation of the courtyards and offices below.
Qasr Al-Hukm has been the residence of the ruler and the place where citizens can meet the king since the reign of Imam Turki bin Abdullah.
The northern section of the building consists of five floors that stand as a single dramatic façade with few portals, windows and overlooks. The interior spaces are largely composed of courtyards and wide corridors that provide a sense of openness.
The royal entrances of Qasr Al-Hukm fall opposite to Turki bin Abdullah Mosque on Assafah Plaza. The main Gate overlooks a fountainhead courtyard from which wide passageways lead to other areas of the ground floor and staircases rise to the upper floors. The Western public entrance to Qasr Al-Hukm lies on the eastern side of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Plaza.
The ground floor of Qasr Al-Hukm includes a 2000-m²royal majlis (reception hall), which is also 14 meter in height. The sides of this majlis have rows of marble-clad columns. The walls and columns and decorated with local architectural motifs. The ground floor also includes the office of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques with an adjacent majlis and conference rooms.
The first floor hosts the office of the Governor of Riyadh, a majlis for receiving the citizens, a conference room, dining hall and private rooms. This floor also hosts the office of the Deputy Governor of Riyadh, as well as adjacent facilities for conferences, dining and private rooms.
The upper floors of Qasr Al-Hukm host offices for administrative staff, a conference room and a 185-seated auditorium equipped with simultaneous translation facilities and a full range of audiovisual systems.
Originally built around 1865 during the reign of Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Rasheed (1289H-1315H), Al-Musmak – which can be translated as ‘thick, high and fortified building’ – is regarded as the birthplace of modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Completely restored under Qasr Al-Hukm project, it is a wonderful example of mud and brick desert architecture, with crenellated towers, triangular windows and traditionally decorated doors and ceilings.
King Abdulaziz captured it in 1319H and, later, it was used as a depot until it was decided to convert it into a heritage landmark. Accordingly, it was extensively renovated during 1980s and turned into a museum about the Kingdom’s history. Now it houses collections of traditional dress and crafts, a traditional Siwan (sitting room) with an open courtyard and a working well, with a multitude of exhibits in both Arabic and English – liberally interspersed with photographs and a video, which well illustrate the history of the country. The museum was opened on 13/01/1416H (12 June, 1995) under the patronage of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who was the Riyadh Gov. at this time.
The construction of the walls – especially at their base – feature traditional mud and straw construction, and they have a watchtower at each corner.
The western side of the palace features an imposing wooden gate, made of palm and tamarisk trunks, at the center of which is the postern gate.
To the left of the gate is a wide room formerly used as a mosque, containing many pillars and with phrases from the Holy Qur’an carved into the walls. There are several traditional Najdi doors opening from the courtyard into rooms used for storage and as guards’ quarters.
On the northeastern side, water can still be drawn by bucket from a well. There are stairs on the eastern wall leading to the first floor and the roofs.
There are three residential units – the first being used as apartments for the ruler, the second as a treasury and the third was used for guests.
The palace was transformed into a museum to tell the story of the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the hands of King Abdulaziz, may the mercy of Allah be upon him.
This mosque has played a key role for decades as the Grand Mosque of Riyadh. It was rebuilt on its original location over an area of 16,800 m². Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque has main entrances overlooking Al-Adl Plaza, Imam Turki bin Abdullah Street and Assafah Plaza. Some entrances lead to an area of 4,800 m²encircled by passageways and shade trees as well as some commercial shops. These passageways often are lined with small Souq stalls. The mosque has a 6,320-m2 courtyard used for prayers with façade walls extending upward for 14.8 meters. At the rear part of the courtyard, there are wooden beamed ceilings that bear the lighting units and amplifiers. Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque accommodates approximately 17,000 worshippers. Two 50-meter high minarets rise at the northern and southern sides of the Mosque and they feature traditional architectural designs. Other facilities of the Mosque include two 325-m²libraries, one for males and the other for females.
The Mosque’s primary construction elements consist of prefabricated concrete units. The exterior walls and the upper sections of the interior walls are covered with Riyadh limestone, while the lower section of the interior walls and the columns are lined with white marble. Triangular precepts beams and textured ceiling slabs provide an appearance similar to the wooden Mashrebiya (Shanasheel) used in the ceiling covering the previous mosque. The Mosque is equipped with TV/radio live broadcast system, as well as remotely-controlled television cameras.
Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque is directly connected to Qasr Al-Hukm by two bridges that extend across Assafah Plaza at the level of the first floor.
Locations of the gates and towers as well as the course of the wall and construction materials were all determined based on comprehensive studies and collected from multiple sources inside and outside the Kingdom to restore and restructure these locations in their original shape.
These landmarks were rebuilt by local craftsmen to maintain their original shape and style.
Al-Thumairi Gate, which faces King Faisal Street and is the east entrance to Qasr Al-Hukm District, was surrounded by the old city wall. Al-Thumairi Gate and its adjacent wall were destroyed when construction began in the old city. Al-Thumairi Gate and a portion of the adjacent wall were reconstructed at their original locations using the same designs and materials. When passing through the Gate to Al-Thumairi Street, the visitor senses that he is entering a historic area, which still preserves its traditions.
Dekhna Gate falls at the intersection of Imam Muhammad bin AbdulWahhaab and Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Streets. The Gate was rebuilt at its original location with the adjacent tower and part of the city wall.
Ad-Deerah Tower is located between Ad-Deerah Souq and the southern courtyard of the municipality buildings.
A portion of the Old Wall was reconstructed, but at the sections, where the wall could not be rebuilt, the location of the former walls has been demarcated by limestone slabs across the paved pedestrian sidewalks and asphalted streets.
Plazas and arenas of Qasr Al-Hukm, with the neighboring facilities, represent an integral architectural unit as to design and the construction materials, in addition to integration of the functional and architectural roles in the area in particular and the city in general.
These arenas and plazas are distinguished thanks to their integrated utilities, particularly the traffic safety. The local intensive traffic movement was isolated to alleviate noise and ensure nonstop security services. Moreover, safety requirements, particularly for children, have been considered.
Qasr Al-Hukm arenas and plazas serve as a social and promotional meeting place for inhabitants of the capital and contribute to revival of the positive human interaction and humanitarian activities, which started fading because of the overwhelming commercial nature of the area.
These plazas and arenas are equipped with all necessary modern preparations to host the cultural and social activities and festivals like Eed Al-Fitr celebrations.
This 4,500-m²area situates Al-Musmak Fort in an environment suitable to its historical importance. Date palms shade the southern end of the Plaza, which is interested by several passageways paved with limestone. The plaza has been designed for hosting folk festivals and other activities. The mosque adjacent to Al-Musmak Fort was rebuilt in a design that reflects the traditional local architectural. Al-Musmak Plaza adjoins Al-Adl Plaza to the West.
This Plaza is located between Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque and Qasr Al-Hukm, while it overlooks Al-Adl Plaza in the west. The Royal Entrance to Qasr Al-Hukm is the southern end of the Plaza and two pedestrian bridges cross eastward and westward connecting Qasr Al-Hukm and Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque. Assafah Plaza is landscaped using date palms.
Imam Muhammad bin Saud Plaza lies at the western end of a series of plazas and open spaces that link the various structures in Qasr Al-Hukm District. This 14,000-m²area is landscaped using many trees and bushes, shaded seating and fountains. The Plaza is surrounded by Qasr Al-Hukm on the east, Riyadh Municipality and Ad-Deerah Souq in the south and Al-Muaiqliyah Commercial Center in the north.
This Plaza is the focal point of the open areas of the District and is the main plaza in Riyadh. Al-Adl Plaza covers an area of 14,000 m² in a vast expanse that is harmonies with the surrounding buildings. To the north are administrative offices, below which are small souq stalls. To the South is Al Awqaf Al Khairia Souq, while the eastern side of the Plaza overlooks tree-lined walkways that pass along shaded shopping arcades. The perimeter of Al-Adl Plaza is landscaped with large date palms that parallel the main pedestrian routes passing through the Plaza. Al-Adl Plaza may be seen as an extension of Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque and it serves as a passageway that winds throughout the District and provides access to the Mosque. Immediately to the south of the Plaza stands the Clock tower, which has been preserved in its original location as a monument marking an era in the development of the City.
To the south of Imam Muhammad bin Saud Plaza, Ad-Deerah Souq has been constructed adjacent to Riyadh Municipality premises. This Souq includes 400 shops, exchange offices, and other activities. The Souq was developed by the Saudi Company for Al Muaiqliyah Commercial Center.
The main purpose of Az-Zall Souq development project was to maintain the general commercial nature of the area and encourage owners to develop their properties. The neighboring infrastructure networks were relocated and remnants of the adjacent damaged mud houses were removed. The internal passageways of the Souq were asphalted and lit, in addition to adoption of a unified design for all commercial signboards and improvement of the facades and ceilings of the internal passageways. The area, bordered by Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah Road in the south, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Abduwahhab Street in the west, and Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Street in the east, is 38,580 m²and its northern section hosts shops for selling and manufacturing traditional goods like swords, antiques, carpets (Az-Zall), shoes, etc. The southwestern part of the Souq witnessed reconstruction of Sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Mosque.
Design of the Souq was inspired by folk markets, as it has many open areas at the center connected by passageways and covered by tents and Mashrabiyas (Shanasheels). This Souq, developed by a private investor, accommodates 260 small shops. West of Suwaiqah Souq lies an open landscaped area that surrounds the historic Al-Musmak Fort, originally constructed early of the 14th Hijri Century.
Al-Muaiqliyah Commercial Center was developed by a joint venture called the Saudi Company for Al-Muaiqliyah Commercial Center. Members of the this joint venture included Riyadh Municipality, Saudi Pension Fund, General Organization for Social Insurance and Saudi Real Estate Company. The Center includes nearly one thousand shops in addition to offices, residential apartments, and an underground park with a capacity of 2,000 cars.