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Saudi Arabia Is Building A Whole New City With Wellness In The Blueprint


First came the announcement of Neom, a smart city with the lofty aim of changing the course of human history.

Now another new city has been announced in Saudi Arabia, backed by the country’s massive new sovereign wealth fund, this time with the aim of incorporating modern concepts of wellness from the ground up.

Al Widyan is a 75M SF project on the northern edge of the country’s capital, Riyadh, with construction having just commenced. It is being developed by Al Akaria Saudi Real Estate Co., known as SRECO, a company majority owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund, which has aspirations of reaching $2 trillion of assets. The first phase of the project has an estimated end value of $2.7B.

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to open itself to new investment and become a modern economy less reliant on oil, under the banner of the Vision 2030 economic and social programme put forward by new Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Social reform has been mooted but appears slower than economic change.

Along with other projects like the new district being built by Google in Toronto, the project is trying to incorporate some of the tenets of wellness into its master plan.

But what does that mean in practice? Here are some of the elements that will be built into the scheme:

  • Considering the yearly movement of the Sun, maximising the shelter and shade in walkways, car parks, playgrounds, public parks, etc., with early calculations prepared at master plan level.
  • Building and streets orientated to minimise solar gain and cross ventilation and proper interaction of planting and air movement, improving outdoor thermal comfort.
  • Traffic planning and road design to minimise noise nuisance.
  • Provision of cultural amenities and community facilities accessible to all residents, ensuring social connectivity and interaction.
  • Provision of interconnected network of parks and open space, in different sizes, characters and purpose.
  • Provision of enhanced pedestrian environment to improve public health, enhance mobility, reduce reliance on automobiles, improving vitality of the community.
  • Encouraging active lifestyles through programming of public open spaces.
  • Reflecting cultural and historical influences into master plan.

“Vision 2030 has created the demand from our youthful Saudi population for a healthy and vibrant new community within the existing capital,” SRECO Chairman Abdulrahman Almofadhi said. “At the same time, very recent economic reforms have created the conditions in which our operations and projects are increasingly independent of public sector funding and open to investors from all over the world.”