National Aquarium of Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah Financial District - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Celebrating the diverse marine environment in the waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula with a design that illustrates this intersection of currents, where the richest mix of sea life exists.


The Project

Set amidst the skyscrapers of the futuristic King Abdullah Financial District development, a new National Aquarium is among the public amenities attracting visitors and investment to this new financial hub. Themed ‘Wonders of the Aquatic World,’ the project highlights the abundant diversity of the Arabian Sea and of ecosystems around the world.

The Approach

The building circulation was informed by this exploration of diverse ecosystems and inspired by the energy of flowing water. Its restricted site required us to rethink a typical aquarium building form and ultimately, invert it, starting visitors’ journeys at the top and circulating downward through ever larger habitats. The developer’s mandate for faceted facade detailing also enhanced the exterior expression with dynamic geometry reminiscent of the ocean surface.

The Result

The resulting design is a unique and beautiful form that fully maximizes the area. Inspired by the confluence of the ocean currents, both the exterior and interiors express this energy, richness and diversity through materials, form and circulation. The terrestrial and aquatic habitats and exhibits also emphasize this rich mix of sea life found in the currents’ convergence, and engage visitors in an entertaining and educational experience.

Total Area


Ocean Tank


Distinct Ecosystems


The new KAFD Aquarium is sure to become one of the centerpieces of the vibrant King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh.

Waleed Aleisa, CEO, Project Manager

Team Leaders

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