State oil company Saudi Aramco has selected the local Saudi Oger for the main construction contract on its estimated SR2bn ($533m) King Abdulaziz Centre for Knowledge & Culture in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

According to sources close to the project, the contract will be formally signed by 14 May.

The project involves the construction of five interconnected buildings, the tallest of which will be 15 storeys high. The complex will include exhibition halls, a museum, a mosque, a library, a cinema, an auditorium and a theatre to accommodate 1,000 visitors.

The centre will cover an area of 72,000 square-metres and is scheduled for completion in early-2013.

The buildings have been designed to resemble five pebbles standing in the desert. Clad in stainless steel, Saudi Aramco says the pebbles will reflect the sun’s rays to make the structure visible over long distances.

The other bidders for the contract were:

  • Al-Yamama Company for Trading & Contracting (local)
  • Baytur Construction & Contracting Company (Turkey)
  • Drake & Scull International (UAE)
  • Hyundai Engineering & Construction (South Korea)
  • SK Engineering & Construction (South Korea)
  • Nesma & Partners Contracting Company (local)

Norway’s Snohetta is the lead architect. Four UK firms are also involved in the project: Buro Happold will serve as structural and mechanical engineer; Davis Langdon as cost manager; Davis Langdon Schumann Smith as design project manager; and Faithful and Gould will manage the project.

Aramco first tendered the scheme in March 2009 but re-tendered it in March this year, hoping to attract lower bids after a fall in construction costs across the region during 2009 (MEED 3:2:10).

The original bidders were the local Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Oger, Cyprus-based Joannou & Paraskevaides (J&P Overseas), and Baytur.