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Financial Center Riyadh

Newsletter | Jan/Mar 2024


Volume 52:1
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If you would like to see corrections to this newsletter or to submit articles or suggestions for future newsletters please contact the Newsletter Editor.

In this issue:
Editor's Note - Mui Ho
Update on Retreat 2024 - Rachel Slonicki

Editor's Note

by Mui Ho    |    Share #1647

I had an opportunity early this year to attend a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, afterward visiting the UAE cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Knowing little about the oil-rich kingdoms on the Persian Gulf, it was a most educational trip. Almost everything encountered, the people, the culture and the physical environment, was an eye opening experience.

Planning for expansion of Riyadh in the 1950's was much influenced by the urban planner Constantino Doxiadis. The plan, unfortunately, was simply a large infinitely expandable grid of low rise buidlings, which has allowed a city of 200,000 in 1960 to grow laterally into a city of 7.5 million today. Comparisons to a Los Angeles in the sand were not hard to make. The grid, roughly 1 mile square, is made up of six to nine lane highways. Riyadh is built around the car, with few accommodations for pedestrians beyond the promenades of large shopping, business and dining malls and driving destinations. Visitors have to use Uber services to go anywhere, even if the destination is directly across the highway. (Before a recent law allowing women to drive, women were always dependent on men to leave the house.) Unsurprisingly perhaps, we saw few electric cars. During rush hour, the vast highways are often congested and the air is always tinged from pollution. Part of the vast building boom that is going on in the region, there are plans to double Riyadh's population in the next 7 years. Construction sites are everywhere and the city's first metro system is to open soon. Most impressive was the extent of recent urban high-rise development, and the glitziness of the new buildings.

Al Kindy Square

Riyadh Assafarat District

Financial Center Riyadh


I was entranced with the efforts to integrate sunshading into the very well detailed facades of the new high-rises. The sun shielding is necessary in the extreme climate. It is like a second skin on the buildings making the exterior more interesting while still allowing lots of natural light. Probably the cost of the exterior skin is balanced by the drop in cooling costs, although it didn't seem like cost was a major factor in any of the designs.

One custom I found very different was the shift in hours of activity. People get up late they do not venture out till after sunset. The malls are packed at night and the lighting of buildings becomes as much a part of their design as the sunshades. (No doubt our flight out of the country left at 3:00am) Since schools start in the morning, like most schools, young students told me the hardest thing was to going to bed at 10:00pm in order to get up for school. They said it takes a few days to a week to adjust after school holidays.

Another surprise was finding one of our members, Sima Tawakoli, in the Riyadh conference. She gave a paper on 'Lighting Silhouettes as an Element in Vernacular Architecture: Inspiration for Contemporary Design.'

How about a good conversation?

by Karen Van Dorn    |    Share #1648

Much to my surprise, the day everything shut down was the same day that I retired from architecture after 40 years. I imagined luxuriating on the beach but instead snow-birded to Alaska for two years. Since then I have been back full time at my house in Berkeley. I have entertained myself by researching all kinds of issues, including those in architecture.

Four years, I have been quiet, and now I would like to see if any of my colleagues would like to engage in informal conversation about what is happening in architecture and where it is going. I have no idea what might come of getting together but I am tired of computer interface and would love to have some in-depth conversation with some of the smartest people I know.

If you are interested, please email me at Karen Van Dorn

Depending on the response, we can meet at my home or at a coffee shop in Berkeley. In better weather, we might sit outside or go on a short walk. Just imagine a computer and phone free conversation, which wends it way through various topics and ideas. No pressure, just us.

Update on Retreat 2024

by Rachel Slonicki    |    Share #1649

I will be meeting with the steering committee again on March 2, 2024.  We have to confirm our reservation by March 15, 2024.  We will have to raise the registration fees this year.   Charlayne and the steering committee plan to start promoting the event and possibly reaching out for fund raising to offset the registration fee increase.  

Darlene, Nazila, Shannon, Allison, and Caroline, have you thought of a title for the program?  Have you had a chance to meet?  Any thoughts on who the speaker might be?   Is anyone delving into planning the legacy presentations in addition to planning the presentation on artificial intelligence?

Mui, Betty, Gilda, and Alex, have you had a chance to talk about and select a direction for the art project?  Are we moving forward with the felt flowers, jewelry, or marbling scarves?

Amy, any progress on selecting Qi Gong, body stretching, or mat Pilates for the Sunday movement class?  Which style of movement do you think you will move forward with for the Sunday session?  Cammy, are Luz Mena and Giovanni Pietrobo confirmed?

Helen, did you hear back from any of the salsa bands that might be available?  If not, Debbie might ask her friend for additional recommendations.

Heather, Marda transferred money to the retreat account to cover the deposit.  After the steering committee meets on March 2, we will have to send in the deposit and signed agreement. 

More images of the Emirates

 Share #1650

Lourve Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque Center


Eames Archive, Richmond California

 Share #1657

While we think of the Eames' as being Southern California designers, the granddaughter of the couple, who became the heir to their significant collection of prototypes and office memorabilia, is in the Bay Area. She has created, in the former industrial area of Richmond, an archive of the collection. The ticket prices are a bit steep and reservations are needed, but for aficionados and historians of the design epoch they dominated, seeing the origins of their legacy is worth it.

via Nicholas Calcott

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