RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is to build its own version of the famous French Champs-Élysées, in historic Diriyah.
Director General of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, Jerry Inzerillo, announced plans for the ambitious project during the Franco-Saudi Strategic Partnership for Designing Sustainable Cities for Tomorrow tour in Riyadh.
He said: “The Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) wanted to connect the cultural identity and heritage of Diriyah Gate 1 with the university (King Saud University) of Diriyah Gate 2, thus linking the past and the present of the Kingdom to his future.
“This connection point allows us to build a new boulevard and the Crown Prince is someone who loves France.
“Who doesn’t like the Champs-Elysées? He was very motivated by this, and he said he would like to have our own Diriyah version of the Champs-Elysées paying homage to the French but not copying them. We have our own culture, we have our own heritage and we have our own history,” Inzerillo added.
It is planned that the avenue will include a museum of contemporary art, a convention center, an opera house and mosques along its route.
The new project was discussed during the second edition of the Franco-Saudi Architecture Tour which aims to strengthen cooperation between French architects and some of the major projects underway in the Kingdom, including the DGDA program. The circuit directly connects French architects to the promoters of major projects, such as Inzerillo.
Diriyah’s own Boulevard des Champs-Élysées will fall under the Diriyah Gate 2 project, but full details on the scale of the project have yet to be released. According to the authority, the project is still in its early stages and has not yet been given an official name.
Inzerillo said: “Diriyah is very special, soon the silhouettes of the Al-Saud Palace which was the image of the G20 will be known around the world the same way people take a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
“I assure you that in a few years, no one will come to the Kingdom, and no one will come to Riyadh, without taking a photo in front of the palaces of At-Turaif and Diriyah.
“The Boulevard des Champs-Elysées in Diriyah is a future project that draws its structural inspiration from France while paying homage to the heritage of the Kingdom.
“The height and width will be similar to the Champs-Elysées in Paris which I believe is 1.9 kilometers long.”
Inzerillo highlighted some of the different features that will be part of the new boulevard.
“The Saudi Museum of Contemporary Art will be on this boulevard. This will be our tribute to the Louvre (museum in Paris).
“Also on this boulevard will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Convention Center, the Opera House, the Grand Mosque as well as the King Salman Mosque.
“We are now 97% complete with the design of what we call Diriyah Gate 1, and we are very advanced in Diriyah Gate 2 and will soon start the design of Diriyah Gate 3 in addition to the 60 kilometer development of Wadi Safar.
“We are working on more than two dozen contracts in the cultural and heritage site, including archaeology. So there is a very strong relationship between the Kingdom and France, it has continued to grow stronger, especially in the four years that I have been CEO,” he added.
During the tour, Inzerillo highlighted the DGDA’s ambitions and opportunities for French cooperation.
“The very strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and France since the giga projects has only grown stronger.”
He noted that there had been almost a billion dollars in agreements signed between the authority and French companies.
Addressing the French architectural delegation, he said: “When the Crown Prince and I sat down to talk about Diriyah Gate, the master plan was ambitious with 1.5 million square meters of development.
“But the crown prince, when you give him drawings and you show him the blueprint, he doesn’t just approve it, he’s going to study it, he’s going to polish it, he’s going to change it. This original 1.5 million turned into 14 million square meters of development.
“These audacious giga projects are no longer inspiring, they are coming to fruition,” he added.
The tour was coordinated by Business France, an agency of the French Embassy that oversees the globalization of the French economy to publicize the Kingdom’s ambitions for environmental sustainability, innovative technologies, and cultural and historical preservation.
Inzerillo said: “Diriyah is the birthplace of the Arabian Peninsula, Diriyah is the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Diriyah is the ancestral home of the House of Al-Saud.
“We want to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s unique identity by acknowledging its past but doing it authentically.
“When you look at French architecture and you look at French design and you look at France as one of the great cultural heritage tourist countries in the world, you are indeed an inspiration to us.
“We are going to experience another very big expansion of architecture and design competitions over the next 12 months.
“We are going to build 20,000 inhabitants which we will start in the first quarter of 2023,” he added.
Diriyah Gate 1 is centered on culture and heritage and will use traditional mud bricks in its construction.
“We currently manufacture 180 million mud bricks. Last week we symbolically made mud bricks for the first million that we completed. We have 179 million more up for grabs,” he said.
Riyadh is set to host the 22nd World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in Riyadh from November 29 to December 2, where the authority will make various announcements regarding its plans.
“During this time, not only will we announce all new assets for 2023, but we will also show the completion of key aspects of Vision 2030 in 2022,” Inzerillo added.