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Bechtel’s Impact Report

Working at iconic Riyadh Metro station is 'a dream come true’ for lead female architect

  • By
    portrait of Lisa Equi
    Lisa Equi, Internal Communications Specialist
  • 08 March 2021
     3 Min Read

Rawan Al Derjem is a lead architect for the Riyadh Metro project, working at its iconic King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) station. She joined Bechtel as a graduate thinking she would spend a year in the job. Fast forward six years and Rawan has moved through the ranks from junior to senior to lead, and now truly believes she has her dream job.

“I always wanted to be an architect, having been inspired by my father who is one. But it is not every day that you land your dream job straight out of university,” she says. 

KAFD station is the largest station on Line 1 of the metro, which is set to be the world’s biggest urban rail project outside of China. It is LEED Silver certified and designed by the acclaimed Zaha Hadid Architects, recognised globally for their late founder Zaha Hadid’s radical style. The station alone covers a massive 45,000 sq. m – equivalent to just over six standard football pitches– and serves three of the six Riyadh Metro lines. Two skybridges connect it to the central King Abdullah Financial District.

Rawan is still in awe of the magnitude of the project. “The sheer scale of the work involved in designing the station is incredible - attention to detail so important,” she explains. “One example is the painstaking effort to ensure the precise shade of gold is used across many different surfaces. The whole station is like a piece of art and it’s such an honour to work with a team of architects I’ve admired so much.”

In her role, Rawan is the key point of contact between the designers, subcontractors and site team. With her expert guidance, they all work collaboratively to make the design a reality. And she does this as the only woman on the site.

She says: “No day is the same and I have learned so much about myself as well as how to work in a team where you are the only female. Being open in the way I communicate has helped me build trust with my male colleagues who have never worked before with a female in such an environment. I spend time getting to know the team and learning about the different roles they all have – this has meant that we all feel supported in the work we are delivering.”

A passionate supporter of driving more female talent in the industry, she adds: “It is such a rewarding career, I would love to see more women in design and construction. And what is so inspiring for me is knowing how Saudi’s 2030 vision to build long term economic success in the Kingdom will particularly support the careers of women.” 

Bechtel’s role on the project as part of the BACS consortium, which includes Almabani, CCC and Siemens, is for the design and build of metro lines 1 and 2 for the Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC). This comprises detailed structural, architectural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and transit system design together with procurement, construction, testing and commissioning works.

When complete, the Riyadh Metro will help revolutionize transport in Saudi Arabia and help the country meet the demands of a growing population, while reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. 

Rawan often reflects on the people who inspired her career, starting with her father. From a young age her dream had been to be a great designer and learn how to apply design techniques to building complex constructions that would benefit communities.

She says: “It’s a dream come true. My family and especially my father are very impressed with what I have achieved – little did he know that his daughter who aged 10 designed part of their home, would end up working on a landmark project that will help transform the community he lives in. I am extremely proud of working on this transformational project and am so grateful to Bechtel for giving me this opportunity.”


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