Exploring the Synthesis of Modern Architecture and Tradition at Misk Schools

Misk Schools in Riyadh is a private, K–12 school, empowering future leaders for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and beyond.

The school opened a new campus in August 2023, a 20-minute drive from downtown Riyadh in Mohammed Bin Salman Nonprofit City, the world’s first non-profit city, which is developing as a regional and global center incubating innovative, educational and creative industries.

With this as context, it is perhaps unsurprising that the character, design and facilities of the new Misk Schools campus are nothing short of exceptional.

EdDesign Mag was privileged to visit the 110,000 square-meter development, uncovering an architectural narrative that not only fosters modern pedagogical practices, but also pays homage to the timeless traditions of Saudi Arabia.

Bridging Modernity and Tradition


Misk Schools’ educational philosophy revolves around nurturing global citizens with a strong foundation in Saudi values. The commitment to teaching culture, religion, and local traditions is an integral part of the curriculum, encouraging students to cherish their roots while also embracing an international perspective.

Photo: Misk Schools


This is achieved through the inclusion of local elements alongside globally recognized programs such as High Performance Learning and the Cambridge International curriculum. These include National Identity Subjects — a syllabus designed to strengthen national character and develop citizenship through lessons in Arabic as well as Islamic and Social Studies.


While students are coached to have the skills, confidence and ambition to ultimately play a role strengthening the Kingdom's global position, school routines are designed to keep them firmly grounded in their national heritage.
Dr Steffen Sommer, Misk Schools’ Director General
Dr Steffen Sommer


“A good example is the Morning Parade — a formal gathering at the beginning of each day when students and staff sing the National Anthem, listen to readings from the Quran and reflect on the most important values, attitudes, attributes and behaviors Saudi leaders need in order to perform highly and serve their country and the world.”

The comfortable juxtaposition between old and ultramodern is also successfully reflected in hard and soft landscaping around the campus. Contemporary branded signage showcases Saudi colors; symbolic olive trees have been imported from Spain, and the inclusion of Islamic decorative themes on some of the futuristic structures all result in a harmonious blend of modern aesthetics and cultural significance.

Photo: Misk Schools


Drawing inspiration from the region's arid landscape, outdoor areas are carefully proportioned and oriented to enhance airflow and provide shading, giving students access to a wide variety of alternative spaces. This was a strategic design consideration as Dr Sommer explains: "Research suggests that giving students a degree of autonomy over where to gather supports the development of self-governance and citizenship, which is why we have included different places to meet and work, formally and informally.


As a result, we now have a campus where careful architectural alchemy — the synergy between form, function and aesthetics — has been meticulously managed to support the empowerment of students as the leaders of tomorrow.
Dr Steffen Sommer, Misk Schools’ Director General
Dr Steffen Sommer

Designed to Underpin Educational Goals


Upon entering the campus, the initial stop is the iconic administrative building. Its sleek lines and striking design signal the beginning of an inspiring and impactful learning journey. Its fusion of modern materials and expansive open spaces create an atmosphere of freshness, innovation and possibility, establishing an expectation of both academic excellence and creative expression.

The campus houses nine school buildings, each of which is meticulously designed to cater different age groups from three to 18 (KG to Grade 12). A mirror-image layout is implemented for gender segregation from Grade 1 onwards.

Photo: Misk Schools


Each school features academic classrooms, a library, art and design studios, science and food technology labs, Arabic culture hubs, an IT suite and a music room. Each also has a kitchen in support of the culinary arts and the school’s ‘farm-to-table’ initiative. Teaching and learning spaces are crafted to foster interdisciplinary learning, a feature not commonly found in traditional school buildings. Indeed, every aspect of the campus is designed to inspire student creativity and innovation, appropriate to the learning stage.

For example, the colorful interior design and variety of different, experiential learning spaces in the Junior Schools is not only visually appealing to young children, but also promotes learning through play, fostering high performance from the start and instilling a lifelong love for learning.

Photo: Misk Schools


Older students have access to dedicated maker spaces, as well as specialized, multidisciplinary workshops for AI, coding and robotics, as well as mechanical, electrical, systems and control engineering (mechatronics). Sixth Formers have their own common room.

Unprecedented Facilities


The sports facilities, designed as a ‘sports spine’ to delineate between the Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, are exceptional, emphasizing the school's dedication to well-being, physical education and talent development.

A total of 24 Olympic Summer Sports are catered for. Alongside popular games like football, basketball and volleyball, students can be coached in martial arts, archery, badminton, fencing, water polo, hockey, weightlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, boxing, tennis, rugby sevens and more.

Photo: Misk Schools


There are three swimming pools including Olympic and diving, a gymnastics hall, 12-court gym, 4-court gym, two FIFA-grade fields, two eight-lane IAAF running tracks, two multi-use games areas and an e-gaming center. In addition, the school has academies for golf, karting and equestrianism.

The campus also features a beautiful 858-seat theater for performances, graduations and major events. This comes with an orchestra pit, high-tech audio-visual production systems and lighting rigs.

Photo: Misk Schools


A smaller Lecture Hall with capacity for up to 360 features fully retractable seating, allowing it to be flexibly used for many different purposes including examinations, teaching and learning, all-staff meetings and guest speakers.

Sustainable Wellbeing


The campus has been awarded both LEED Gold Certification and WELL Gold Certification.

LEED acknowledges the school's adherence to prerequisites and credits in areas like carbon, energy, and health, contributing to cost savings, efficiency, and climate action. The holistic LEED system aims to create better buildings that reduce environmental impact, enhance human health, and promote sustainable practices.

Photo: Misk Schools


The WELL Building Standard complements this by fostering intentional spaces that prioritize human health through design and operational interventions based on scientific research.


In concluding our exploration of Misk Schools, it becomes evident that the school stands as a beacon of educational excellence and cultural preservation. Through its modern architectural wonders, it manages to bridge the gap between the future and the past, creating an environment where students are not just encouraged to become pioneering leaders, but also ambassadors of tradition in a rapidly evolving world. The harmonious coexistence of modernity and tradition at Misk Schools sets a compelling example for educational institutions worldwide.

Photo: Misk Schools



The Competition Architects for the project were the UK’s Design Engine, with Dubai-based BSBG the Lead Design Consultants.

Constructed in just two and a half years after approval of the competition concept from the Saudi Crown Prince in October 2020, it can accommodate 1,020 students and is on an expansion trajectory. Currently offering education up to Grade 11, the upcoming academic year marks a significant milestone as this cohort advances to Grade 12 and becomes the inaugural group of Misk Schools graduates.

The school is part of HRH Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, which focuses on youth empowerment through diverse programs and partnerships.


Photo on the main page: BSBG


February 2024

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