Thursday, July 02, 2009

SOM to masterplan vast £49 billion Saudi Arabian city

July 2, 2009 | By Christopher Sell

SOM has landed the commission to take forward the $80 billion (£49 billion) masterplan for King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia – one of the biggest projects in the Middle East

The firm saw off three other anonymous practices to land the contract with developer Emaar, The Economic City.

It is a welcome win for SOM, which has suffered significantly in the current downturn. In 2008’s AJ100 list of Britain’s biggest practices, the firm was ranked at number 21, but it dropped to 100th place in this year’s list (AJ 28.05.09).

‘There is no doubt it is a real shot in the arm for the firm,’ said a source.

SOM will be responsible for ‘refining and finalising the existing concept masterplan’ for the 168km2 site, located in Rabigh, north of Jeddah.

The scheme is expected to include a healthcare district, numerous residential zones, an industrial park and a knowledge and media city. Several phase one projects already under construction, such as the sea port and a raft of housing developments, will not be affected.

An original outline masterplan was drawn up in 2006 by SOM and WATG, setting out the broad objectives of the project.

King Abdullah Economic City will be connected to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina via a new high-speed rail link, featuring stations designed by Foster + Partners.