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Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Saudi Arabia Architecture News - Oct 28, 2020 - 18:19   9999 views

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

French architect Jean Nouvel has unveiled design for a resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert, a cultural oasis in north-west Arabia.

Named Sharaan by Jean Nouvel, the monumental design will be carved into the into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock and will elegantly combine a landscape and history in a unified design.  

The project will sustainably respect and preserve AlUla’s landscape by drawing on concepts from the nearby Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Inner courtyard resort concept: "Architecture is there to put its stamp on places and bear witness to the evolving spirit of the times", Jean Nouvel.

The new resort is located deep within the Sharaan Nature Reserve and takes inspiration from the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Video by The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU)

As a press release summarizes, "In a world-first, this 2,000-year-old architectural legacy is being revived by Jean Nouvel for potentially the first time since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock."

Jean Nouvel described AlUla as "the coming together of a landscape and history; the history of past civilisations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece."

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Design of one of the resort’s rooms with terrace.

Nouvel emphasized that "AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration."

"It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character. 

"We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come."

"Nouvel’s commitment to respecting AlUla’s landscape and ancient heritage has not meant shying away from modern architectural ideas," stated in a press release. 

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

A scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort, allowing them to travel through millions of years of geological stratas.

"AlUla deserves to acquire a degree of modernity," Nouvel added. "Envisioning the future is a never-ending obligation that requires us to be fully alive to places in the present as well as conjuring up the past."

Set to be completed by 2024, the new Jean Nouvel resort will include 40 guest suites and three resort villas. There will also be a retreat summit centre near the resort and will feature 14 private pavilions.

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Design displaying the view from within the resort over the landscape of Sharaan.

According to the press statement, the new resort is developed as part of the development of AlUla guided by 12 strategic principles drawn from the Commission’s Framework Plan and Charter. 

"This approach to development balances innovation with heritage, arts and culture while unlocking economic potential to provide new opportunities for the local community."

Jean Nouvel also explained "how he’s adapting old ways of life to our modern world, minimising the impacts on natural and urban landscapes." 

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

The resort embraces the natural colours and materials of AlUla in luxury.

To achieve this, Nouvel proposed "a new typology of architecture never seen before", he gently used the method of abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it.

He is inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future. 

The architects "integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter."

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Inner courtyard resort concept.

According to Jean Nouvel, this resort as an opportunity will bring to life a strong spatial, sensorial and emotional experience on the borders of nature, architecture and art – where the sound, musicality, harshness, tactility, power and complexity of nature are everywhere, from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, all becomes an artwork in itself.

"Our project should not jeopardise what humanity and time have consecrated," emphasised Nouvel. 

"Our project is celebrating the Nabateans spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act."

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

A scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort, allowing them to travel through millions of years of geological stratas.

Taking on a curatorial approach in the museographical sense, he has created public spaces geared towards the joy of living there, by day, by night, with all the various colours, light, shadow, wind, torrential rain, and the passage of time. 

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

The design invites travellers "to embark on a journey through thousands of years of civilisations and geographical strata within every detail of his designs, from the permanent feel of the rocks to the soft comfort of the armchairs, sofa, and seats."

Upon entering, visitors will be immersed deep within in a memorable journey through time and space, offering a true discovery of AlUla’s essence. 

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Concept rendering showing the view from within the resort over the landscape of the Sharaan Nature Reserve.

"Through immersive experiences in Sharaan’s wilderness, visitors will have personalised exposure to the hundreds of archaeological sites within AlUla," explained in a statement. 

"Yet, this level of luxury will not be at the cost of the natural landscape, as the new resort will draw on emission-free power and new standards in sustainability."

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

These concept renderings show the resort’s luxurious embrace of AlUla’s natural colours, light, shapes, and materials.

It is explained that the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort "will be a key element of RCU’s strategy to develop AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and eco-tourism."

The resort is designed within The Charter of AlUla, a framework document that includes 12 guiding principles that commits The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to long-term future development. 

The project is aimed to contribute to the region’s diversified economy through a Retreat Summit Centre and restaurants.

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

"These concepts, which showcase Jean Nouvel’s masterly innovation in architecture, underscore our commitment to developing AlUla as a global tourism destination without compromising the history, heritage, and landscape of AlUla," said Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU.

"We are a destination built by artists. Sharaan by Jean Nouvel will build on that legacy to become a timeless landscape-architecture that will last forever – a gift to the world."

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Jean integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.

Jean Nouvel designs resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert

Concept rendering of a pool area displaying the interaction of modern designs mixed with the Nabatean way of using light, shadow and rocks.

The plans were first announced in 2019 by the Royal Commission For Alula (RCU). Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel previously completed the National Museum Of Qatar and the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. 

Top image: Concept rendering showing an aerial view of the resort built into the majestic Sharaan Nature Reserve.

All images © Jean Nouvel, courtesy of Royal Commission for AlUla

> via Royal Commission for AlUla