Formed stainless steel tubes for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture of facade construction specialist seele


stainless steel tube façade


3D-curved stainless steel tubes

king abdulaziz center for world culture

With the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a project was completed in the heart of the Saudi Arabian oil fields, which had never been planned or implemented in this form before: Five individual buildings with cultural facilities, including a library and a concert hall, that shine in the sun like bright "pepple stones". The spectacular, three-dimensional freeforms soar up to 90 meters high into the sky, cladded with a futuristic façade of metal. The design of the building envelope originates from the Snøhetta architectural company.

  • seele impressed the architects with the proposal to implement a sophisticated solution in terms of design and aesthetics. The idea was to create an outer shell as a complete freeform surface over the entire 30,000 square meters of the envelope, characterized by elegance, immaculate uniformity, and a robustness in keeping with the location. The material consisted of thousands of intricately formed stainless steel tubes totaling around 350 kilometers in length. The sustructure of the envelope was made up of a polygonal steel grid, which was wrapped around the primary construction of steel supports and reinforced concrete slabs. A second grid of steel tubes, integrated in a sandwich construction of trapezoidal sheet steel, insulation, and standing seam sheet, precisely formed the desired organic shapes. Stainless steel pipes 9.9mm apart from each other were connected on the standing seam using a specially developed type of mounting. The space between the waterproof shell and the tubes runs parallel. The tubes were attached to the outer shell of the building so that there is no pressure or thermal movement between the shell and the pipes - an essential feature, considering the daytime temperatures of 45°C in the shade. The result of the highly complex implementation is convincing from every perspective. The outer shell of the King Abdulaziz Center clings comfortably to the building without any steps or edges to spoil the smooth appearance, featuring harmonious curves and tubes that run perfectly parallel to one another.

Quality in the desert made by seele

The desert climate is extreme, the technical options are limited, and the availability of qualified experts is minimal. Thus seele successfully completed as many of the construction tasks as possible itself and transferred each step of the implementation to the preparation phase: State-of-the-art 3D-planning and parameterization of the construction, intensive risk management, the utmost in materials expertise, and sophisticated logistics.

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    Each of the tubes was shaped by means of a bending machine employing complex mechanism and electronic measuring technology according to precisely predetermined 3D data, tapered at the ends for interlocking, and radially pre-drilled or pre-sawn at exact connection points. Even the installation sequence was precisely determined in advance by means of computer simulation technology, thus providing exact "installation instructions" for each individual tube in the form of precise codes that were automatically printed on each tube.

    seele also ensured that the surfaces of the several thousand tubes remained undamaged by individually packaging them all. The openings of the connections were closed with padded plugs at the ends. The tubes were then packaged in the correct sequence in transport crates, which were in turn shipped in a predetermined order.

From the computer to each separate component: At the production stage, exact installation instructions were automatically printed directly onto the metal of each tube. The markings are temporary and washable.
The identity, the exact position of each tube in relation to the others, and the right assembly sequence were directly readable on each component by means of individual codes and markings on the connections.
The many thousands of custom-formed tubes were elaborately packaged and then shipped to the Saudi Arabian desert in the optimum sequence to ensure that assembly could be completed as efficiently as possible.


Client Saudi Aramco
Architect Snøhetta
Date of completion 2016
Scope of seele supply
  • Stainless steel tube façade: 30,260sqm
  • Standing seam façade: 28,600sqm
  • 2,170sqm insulated glass panels/glass fins at ”Children Oasis”, ”Administration Oasis” and ”Great Hall Oasis”
  • 1,700sqm twisted glulam columns/double glazed units at ”The Source”
  • 150sqm vertical glass screens at main and second entrance
  • 50sqm post-and-rail grid structure at entrance façades
  • 37sqm keystone façade (DGU panels for the outer layer in combination with operable single glazed panels for the inner layer)
  • 14 monosurface skylights (2.4sqm each): elliptical and sloped flat glass skylights
  • Tower window stripes: 1,800sqm
  • Tower skylight: 90sqm