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After suspending role in Neom project, Norman Foster’s firm wins competition in Saudi to design Red Sea airport terminal

November 2, 2019

In a somewhat interesting turn of events, months after Lord Norman Foster, pulled out of the advisory board of the Neom project in Saudi Arabia due to the controversy surrounding the assassination of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, news now comes in that the practice has been awarded another project in the kingdom.

The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the developer behind Saudi Arabia’s ambitious coastal tourism project, has picked Foster + Partners to design the international airport, following a global tender competition. Subconsultant is architectural engineering firm WSP Global. In a bid to open up to international visitors and promote tourism in the country, Saudi Arabia recently started issuing tourist visas to foreign visitors. With crown prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud heling the reform initiatives in the country, Saudi has seen many firsts in the recent times – women have finally been allowed to shed veils that cover the entire face, get a driving license, ride a bike and travel without having to seek permission from their male guardians. Not all of these measures have been fully implemented as the reformist government seeks to reconcile these measures with the more rigid and conservative moral police who wield considerable power.

By 2030, the red sea tourism destination airport, which will be developed over 28,000 sq km of mountainous desert on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, including an archipelago of more than 90 islands, is expected to handle a million visitors a year.

Aiming to put Saudi Arabia on the global tourism map and open up its natural destinations and archaeological sites to the world, the scheme’s first phase is due in 2022, and will include up to 14 hotels offering 3,000 rooms on five islands and two inland sites, as well as commercial, retail and leisure facilities. Upon completion in 2030, the destination will deliver up to 8,000 hotel rooms across 22 islands and six inland sites, TRSDC said.

GCR has requested clarification from Foster + Partners as to Foster’s stance on Saudi Arabia and whether he remains detached from the Neom advisory board.

TRSDC said the airport would have a sustainable design and be informed by the surrounding landscapes.

Gerard Evenden, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners said: “The Red Sea Airport has been envisaged as a gateway to one of the most unique resorts in the world and an integral part of the visitor experience. Inspired by the colours and textures of the desert landscape, the design seeks to create a calm and luxurious journey through the terminal and will become a transit hub for visitors coming in by both land and air. We look forward to working with the Red Sea Development Company to fulfil the vision for this ambitious one-of-a-kind project.”

This is not the only project the firm has been tasked with in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country. Other high profile projects here include the Haramain High Speed Rail Terminus, Jeddah Metro and the Jabal Omar luxury hotel project in the religious city of Makkah.

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