Diriyah, Saudi Arabia

The epic scale and historical significance of the ancient city of At-Turaif come to life after dark in a beautifully layered and nuanced tapestry of golden light.
Diriyah Company
Installation and Equipment
Martin Professional, Enpro
Allan Toft/ Martin Professional
Project team
Keith Bradshaw, Adrien Flouraud, Iain Ruxton, James Fuentes McGreevy

Light articulates the stories hidden in the layers of buildings, courtyards, and archaeological remnants, capturing and reflecting the site's extraordinary spirit and creating a remarkable experience of a living national monument.

The first capital of the Saudi state and UNESCO World Heritage site dates from the 15th century. Located on a raised site at the edge of the ad-Dir'iyah oasis, in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, it includes the remains of many palaces and an urban settlement. 

Exploring the vast and complex network of ancient mud-brick structures, the city feels almost as if it has evolved from the earth rather than been constructed.”

Drawing on our experience of working on several exceptional sites, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the Dom Tower in Utrecht, our design uses light as a narrative tool to convey the stories and memories that live within this unique site, creating a meaningful connection between people, place and architecture. 

We amplified this extraordinary sensation of stepping into another time and place, animating the subtle tonal variations in the natural materials to feel as if they are lit by flickering torch light. 


The exact shade of golden light allows the mud-brick walls to glow in a beautiful, natural, and appropriate way.

Our extensive experience in city light master planning was instrumental in managing the sheer scale of the project. In its raised position, the site is the primary focal point in the landscape when viewed from the developing Diriyah Gate across Wadi Hanifah. 

Having identified the surfaces, facades, streets, and courtyards that shape the site's most important views and experiences, we extensively modelled how light could articulate the site and enrich the experience of it after dark.

Using a palette of differing light intensities, the richly interwoven tapestry of layers and zones helps locals and visitors understand and appreciate how the site works, while equally revealing the beauty within the detail.

Stepping outside the walls, the site’s visual identity is spectacular, befitting it’s significance.

Preserving a sense of authenticity, stylised shields help to conceal most of the light sources from view and pre-existing lighting equipment has been removed from the site. Simple lanterns are stylistically sympathetic to the Nadji architecture.

The design includes a special activation that reflects the importance of the lunar calendar in the Muslim faith. Each month, celebrating the new moon, the lighting shifts to a shade of blue externally, with warm light within.

As archaeological work progresses on site and more remnants of the wider city are uncovered, we are continuing to work with the client team, helping to highlight and aid the interpretation of these elements in the project context.