Considering that the area occupied by King Saud University extends to some nine square kilometres, it comes as a surprise on one’s first visit that the academic area of the university takes up only a third of the space.
The original plan for the campus was drawn up in 1974, but it was to be ten years before completion at a total cost of US$4,000 million.
It includes 11 separate colleges, 15 related facilities, a mosque, and a central service complex. A road leads to the main entrance, or forum, which is surrounded by the central service buildings: the library, university centre, administration block, and auditorium.
From this forum extend three pedestrian malls running north, south and west which are created by palm-like columns forming arches which support the roof. The Colleges of Arts, Education and Administrative Sciences can be found along the western spine; Science, Engineering and Agriculture are situated along the northern spine; whilst Pharmacy and Dentistry are on the southern spine, which connects to the Faculty of Medicine.
To enhance its monumental architecture, the University commissioned sculptures in front of all the colleges and interior decoration of public places throughout the university – one of the most ambitious use of tapestries since the heyday of French chateaux in the 18th century.
The 16 metal sculptures by Daniel Grifin, an Arabic-speaking French sculptor, are based on instruments invented by Arabs.
One of the most striking is a flight of metal birds filling the upper reaches of the atrium of the library.
Don’t miss the ‘giant book’ sculpture near the southern entrance, and make sure you walk down some of the enclosed pedestrian malls connecting the facilities within each college.
*The College of Arts offers free Arabic lessons to foreign residents with courses starting every three months.
Driving north up the western ring road (King Khalid Road) north of the Diplomatic Quarters, you cannot fail to spot the university campus on your right.
This has by far the most impressive entrance which leads you directly to the academic buildings, as opposed to the other main entrances on King Abdullah Road and Imam Saud ibn Abdul Aziz ibn Mohammed Road – both of which take you to the accomodation areas.
The large ‘book’ roundabout is off King Abdullah Road, whilst the entrance off Imam Sa’ud Road boasts a roundabout highlighting the university crest.
The academic car parks tend to get very crowded in the day time, though you should have no difficulty finding somewhere to park. The problem comes when you’re trying to get out and someone has blocked your way!
Try parking in car park no 1 or 5 and wander up the stairs to the dental college to get a feel for the overall campus.
Western ring road entrance: 24 42.6’ N; 46 37.2’ E
King Abdullah Road entrance: 24 42.9’ N; 46 37.9’ E
Imam Saud Road entrance: 24 43.9’ N; 46 37.8’ E