In search of the heart of modern day Riyadh: An evidence-based approach

Alghamdi, N . 2012
Publication Work Type: 
Unpublished Master's Thesis
Publishing City: 
London, UK
Historical centre, Urban Centrality, Syntactic analysis, City Centre, Growth, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Thesis Type: 
Master's Thesis
The Bartlett, University College London (UCL)
Publication Abstract: 

Riyadh is a dynamic city characterised by its rapid growth (Struyk, 2005). This raises a number of concerns. One of which is the issue of centrality. The historical centre has long been regarded as the heart of Riyadh. However, the commercial strip of Riyadh has emerged over the last few decades as a hub of commerce, growing influence. It is a sprawling metropolis, which seeks to usurp the position of the historical centre of Riyadh. Accordingly, this research seeks to question the centrality of both these areas. In order to undertake such a task, an evidence-based approach was employed to highlight the characteristics embodied in a historical centre contrasted with a much needed investigation on the impact of rapid growth, which may have tilted the scales against the continuance of the historical area’s centricity. The methodological approach of this study utilises six layers of information to paint a more definitive picture of the loss or gain of centrality. These layers were: the syntactic analysis, the land-use analysis, the urban elements analysis, the human activities analysis, the historical analysis and finally the future planning analysis. One of the most significant findings to emerge from this study is that assessing the centrality of a city is extremely complex. What was uncovered in our analysis of Riyadh was that there are in fact two prominent centres of modern Riyadh; the historical centre (HC) and the commercial strip (CS). At the domestic level, the characteristics of the HC meet the criteria of regarding it as the prominent centre of modern Riyadh. However, it can be argued that at a global level, there is a shift in the phenomenon of centrality in Riyadh from the HC into the CS. The implication is indeed very serious, since the rapid growth of Riyadh has a clear impact on the HC. Globally speaking, the ever-growing expansion of the CS simultaneously weakens the HC through appropriating much of the social and economic activities. Recommendations are also provided for the Higher Commission for the Development of Riyadh to overcome some issues of the HC, which may go some way in bridging the ever-widening gap between the HC and the CS.