National Built Heritage Center

Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has reached a very advanced position in its dealings and initiatives related to urban heritage. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a big country with vast and various invaluable historical towns and villages and traditional buildings, that should be kept and invested for future generations. SCTA, during the last decade, has developed many programs in order to achieve this goal; it is time to bring together all efforts and programs under one umbrella to benefit from the available human and financial resources and focus the responsibility into one entity.

The initiative of HRH (Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) the President of SCTA to establish a “Center for the National Built Heritage” comes as one of the important transition steps that could keep pace with the current need of the Kingdom to establish organized entities with clear responsibilities towards urban heritage, like many of the countries that started early in preserving cultural treasures and heritage. The Kingdom, with its geographical and cultural diversity and its history, is one of the most important culture incubators worldwide, the Arabian Peninsula is the cradle of old civilizations, and a geographical / human platform or ground that expresses the ability of people to challenge and overcome the difficult circumstances. Urban experiences of the Arabian Peninsula inhabitants is one of the most important human experiences, which deserves to remain n to be a witness on the ability, innovation and creativity of the people of the area.

The Center is defending a cultural and economic “issue", it seeks to preserve, develop and revive urban heritage. It contributes also to the current and future social structure and provides a livelihood for those who inhabit and live in it. This multifaceted issue, carried by the center, is an important turning point in the construction and confirmation of national identity. It is not limited to mud and stone that form traditional building, but it extends to the "story of place." The national unity started from these places that we seek to maintain. The stories of parents and grandparents and their experiences with life and their attempts to overcome the difficult conditions are stored in the corners of such buildings, walls, the alleys, rail, yards, and mosques. However, we are aware that the story of the place should continue and should not be stopped at a specific time, but must be extended to form three-dimensional stories that goes back to the past, shows in the present and extends into the future.

The issue of Built Heritage defended by the Center, has no ready-made solutions, but it is based on a deep understanding of the phenomenon of "urbanization", so it is forming like a “thinking cell” that is capable of dealing with the urban phenomenon in all of its aspects, not as a group of technicians who have the knowledge and experience in the restoration of heritage buildings. The Center also seeks to build a dialogue atmosphere and environment based on the concept of "social development" through attracting intellectuals who have a high impact on their local communities to be active and influential in the preservation of urban heritage. The Urban Heritage Center seeks to create a culture that can be called “the culture of urban heritage" which will be the starting point that creates "community awareness" of heritage value, because our primary goal is to make the citizen the first guard of the urban heritage in our country.

The Center, in general, is concerned with preserving and studying the built heritage, and presenting it to the local regional and world communities in a distinguished scientific manner that demonstrates the potential of such heritage and how it could be used and invested. At the same time, it confirms an important cultural status which is "how to live history," which means that the urban heritage must become part of our daily lives through reviving social and economic life at heritage sites. The revival of these sites to find a heritage that develops and evolves to keep pace with our economic and cultural aspirations as well as expectations is a part of the great objective of this Center.

We also should emphasize here that the Center of the National Built Heritage seeks to be a national expert home in the various areas of urban heritage, both research and science, through the establishment of a national library that specializes in urban heritage, the publication of scientific research on urban heritage of the Kingdom, the organization of forums, conferences, workshops and the implementation of training programs. It also seeks to be an expertise leader of development and investment of urban heritage through the participation in the development and investment of urban heritage sites in various regions of the Kingdom without causing an imbalance in the authenticity and value of historical artifacts. The technical expertise is one of these areas, where the Center must be a technical expertise home in the field of urban heritage through the development of local materials (mud and stone, for example) and encouragement of traditional builders and traditional building artifacts. Thus, the final stage that the Center wants to reach is open and endless, if we consider that the heritage is alive among us, a part of our present and future culture and a source of renewable livelihood, then this means that our targets do not have time limits.


Preserve, Develop and Invest in urban heritage without losing its originality and impact on the confirmation of national identity, in general, and the character building of the Saudi city at present and in the future.

  • Create a systematic organization that deals with urban heritage development and use available human and financial resources in SCTA.
  • Make the Center a national expert home in technical fields and revival of heritage sites.
  • Attract concerned people in urban heritage of all fields and groups of the community to create an intellectual and economic environment that is concerned of the future of urban heritage in the kingdom.
  • Develop the urban heritage at a local level and spread a social awareness about its value as an important local culture source and a renewable economic source.

Tasks of the Center

1. Documentation, classification and registering urban heritage:
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to the National Register of Urban Heritage project. The project will include: recording and documenting urban heritage and build a national database that enables researchers, investors and interested parties to have access to all information and documents required to deal with urban heritage.
  • Develop policies that preserve urban heritage and reuse it to ensure a life of new social and economic fit with the current needs while maintaining the original components and elements.
  • Monitor the implementation of these policies and cooperation with all entities in the state in order to achieve this protection.
2. Studies and Publications:
  • Work with scientific research centers at local universities and science chairs to make scientific research and studies on the national urban heritage.
  • Conduct field surveys concerned with documenting the urban heritage and study its social, cultural and technical structure.
3. Rehabilitation, Development and Investment of Urban Heritage:
  • Study the urban heritage sites in the Kingdom and schemes "general location" for the development of these sites and the development of architectural studies and technical details to keep them.
  • Support the owners of urban heritage sites and build partnerships with them in order to emphasize the fact that the urban heritage is a continuous wealth, as long as it have been preserved, it can be invested and developed.
  • Develop of investment portfolios dealing with the urban heritage in villages and cities of the Kingdom as an area can bring financial returns and the develop standards and means for controlling the reservation of heritage and authenticity.
4. Social Development and Education:
  • Build a social awareness system linking the urban heritage with people, especially those who live in or near historic areas, with emphasis on the delivery of the idea that the urban heritage must be within the daily life, not just ruins or museums to visit. This includes events, visits, media and school and social awareness. It also includes building social partnerships contribute to preserving the heritage and investment.
  • Spread awareness about the cultural and economic importance of urban heritage, and develop a sense of belonging to the cultural heritage of the Kingdom, and activate the relationship of the citizen world heritage landmarks.
  • Consider the maintenance of the national built and urban heritage a collective responsibility of every citizen.
  • Qualify and train of the national cadres in order to preserve and develop heritage urban.
  • Link the urban heritage with architectural education and develop educational programs concerned with urban heritage in all cultural, engineering, and economic (financial and investment) and operating aspects in order to promote awareness of the importance of heritage among specialists, and build national cadres specialized in studying, documenting and preserving urban heritage in all regions of the Kingdom.
  • Hold meetings and conferences on urban heritage in the Kingdom and try to promote a culture of specialized community-based revival of urban heritage and conservation.
  • adopt professional associations in the field of urban heritage and expand its activities at the local level.
5. Technical Support and Development
  • Transfer (social, aesthetic, technical and functional) knowledge related to urban heritage and capacity building of partners in the areas of protection, conservation and rehabilitation.
  • Develop technologies in collaboration with local or international research centers, in order to facilitate the preservation of urban heritage. Make sure to create qualified human resources in various technical areas such as maintenance, restoration and development of materials and construction techniques associated with the urban heritage.
  • Follow-up and supervise all projects for urban heritage and develop the necessary plans for their maintenance, operation, and work hand in hand with owners to ensure the achievement of these goals.
6. Financing:
  • Expand Thameen Program to include a larger number of villages and towns.
  • Establish an Urban Heritage Fund.
  • Develop financing policies to maintain the architectural heritage and build economic partnerships, whether supporters of the business sector or adopt a documentary or renovation projects and re-use in cooperation with public of private institutions.