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Palatial surroundings !

Ian.D.Gilham.'s picture

From '84 to '86 I was working as Clerk of Works in Riyadh, building a palace and housing complex for Sheikh Abdulla bin Adwan.
I thought some photos of the marble work might be of interest.

This is the exterior of the palace, all the exteriors were clad in white crystallino marble.

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--- and this is one of the four villas (one for each son!)

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Palace entrance (men only)

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Harem entrance -- men (other than immediate family) forbidden

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Palace 'majlis' area -- barbeque area would probably describe it.

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Last one I promise!
Entrance Hall in one of the villas. The granite on the walls came from South America and was cut and polished (book-matched) in Riyadh.
The main lighting for this area was from two spotlights in the bottom of the fountain whose light came through the water and was reflected from the ceiling

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Ian, of what material is the cresting on the top of the walls? It looks like some sort of metal...

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Pre-cast in concrete, using limestone aggregate and white cement rather than ordinary cement and painting them white. The climate was so aggressive that external paint wasn't a good idea.
The cresting is a very traditional decoration.

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Those are some pretty imposing structures. They seem so cold looking, but beautiful at the same time. how much work did you actually do yourself there?


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I was employed as 'muhandis al mabani' (which translates roughly as building engineer or Clerk of Works), having just finished a contract as Construction Manager on a multi-storey car park and shopping complex in Riyadh.
There was no architect, the plans had been purchased as a package some 5 years before the job started, and didn't include things like sanitary-ware schedules, door schedules, etc, etc, nor any of the interior design.
The contractor went under about half-way through (He was shafted big-time building the Embassy for a country that had better remain unnamed) so all in all I supervised and controlled the project as construction manager from about roofed-in stage.
I did a lot of the design --for all the marble work, the facades (windows,arches, parapets, etc), door schedules, and all the information missing from the original plans.
The hardest part was organising the choice of the bathroom fittings and the kitchen units because each wife (6 in total = 4 sons @ 1 each and the sheikh with 2) wanted hers to be different from the others and I had to arrange for them to visit showrooms, see samples, etc. -- all without actually talking to them! -- then draw up service layouts based on their choice.
To make them understand that once they'd decided that was it -- we would be fixing services in the structure that couldn't be altered -- was a nightmare. To give you some idea, there were 49 bathrooms alone in the complex.
It was an experience, that's for sure.
You mention 'cold looking' --- the Saudis dislike the sun (understandable when it can reach 135 in the shade) and prefer the cool colors so that's intentional.

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Ian -

That sounds like an interesting few years or so (i would imagine you were there for a few years). The cultural differences would be the strangest to deal with. I have an aquaintence that is an eye doctor and he is in an American compound in that region and they mentioned the cultural gender issues are the hardest to deal with.

I figured the climate had a lot to do with the "Cold" feeling. If I lived in that area I would want all the cold marble I could afford. I would imagine that changing a bathroom layout mid-stream in marble is a bit of an issue.


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this is a picture of the Riyadh Eye Hospital.

Cultural differences -- Restaurants split into two sections, Family and Bachelors -- the local funfair open to Mothers and Daughters only 3 days a week, Fathers and Sons the other 4 days -- all quite odd.

The construction work was incredible though

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Ian -

Is it just me or is there a lot of oil money floating around there? That looks like a pretty ornate hospital....especially for a specialized hospital.

Were the construction techniques similar, superior or inferior? Just looks like a carpenter could go broke there!!! It's all stone work. :)


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Saudi has something like 25% of the worlds' oil.
There were building companies from all over the world working there, doing in 10 years what would normally take 50.
There was no building inspectorate, or safety inspectors so there was some of the worst and most dangerous construction I have ever seen and, because there were some of the largest companies from all around the world, some of the best.
For at least 2 - 3 months of the year it's only about 2% humidity and 120+F so it plays hell with timber.
A formwork carpenter would be coining it though -- the structures were nearly always concrete.
One of the first jobs I supervised was a guest villa for Prince Khalid.
This is the entrance -- the doors and glass are from US, the stair handrails and spandrel panels from Germany.
The stair is clad in crystallino marble, the floor in Travertine.
The final touch that ruined the whole thing was the flashing disco lights inlaid to the joints in the marble floor.

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Those are the weirdest clouds...

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They really don't look real. It looks like the picture of the building was cropped and laid on a straight up shot of the clouds. Pretty simple to do really.

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I bet Ian used some of that English sky...

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What say Ian ? Did you take the picture ?

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Yes, I took the picture, and yes, I used the 'Cloud' filter in PS because the sky there in summer was almost white, and yes, you are picky buggers!
Here's the actual sky color -- satisfied?

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I think i once rented a student apartment that color: Eau de smoke.

Groovy building out there in the middle of nothing...

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A private equestrian sports stadium for one of the princes, I think.
To get a handle on the size, just left of centre and in front of the building is an electricity pylon.

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That's just like my equestrian sports colluseum!!!!

I guess when you have an unlimited bank account and nothing better to do all day than out-spend or out-build the other princes this may make sense.

I think the US version of this would be a full size Daytona Speedway replica in your back in the thoroughbreds for a fleet of race cars.


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Now I have something to think about while pumping 40 gallons or so into "old blue's" twin tanks.
Great looking job, but money still corrupts.

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Kinda make me feel like I am living in squaler!

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the work is impressive.

no place like home-

I guess.

Where does human comfort fit in?

Place ain't exactly inviting.

That is not a criticism of the quality of the work-

I just don't feel compelled to visit the prince.