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AECOM reveals equestrian village with low-lying and sand-colored units in AlUla desert
Saudi Arabia Architecture News - Sep 11, 2023 - 09:40 1711 views
Dubbed as a "world-class equestrian village", the project, commissioned by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), will be built as a comprehensive and sustainable equestrian village as part of RCU's strategy to develop an equestrian sector for AlUla County in north-west Saudi Arabia.
The development life cycle of the project will be led under RCU Assets Planning & Development department led by Vice President Ashraf S Mahmoud along with Ken Flook and Ali Khachab.
The project, called AlMuatadil Equestrian Village, is led by AECOM's lead designer Erik Behrens along with his team. AECOM developed the concept design scheme in cooperation with the Saudi Equestrian Federation, RCU Planning Panel and the Equestrian Development Sector Lead Laura Richardson.
The design features a series of low-lying units - made of sand-colored and lighter earthen tones - inspired by the natural context of the AlUla region.
The 285-hectare complex will have two arenas, including a 5,000-seat area and 1,400-seat arena, for events from dressage to concerts, grass polo, sand polo and endurance venues, including a 600-seat, a 400-seat and a 600-seat venues.
Besides, it will house visitor facilities, two stable compounds, housing a total of 740 horses, and accommodation and retail facilities for event participants and workers.
"These premier facilities will make AlMuatadil a leading international platform for equestrian events, and will give access for riders to the Wadi Al Fann landscape art and sculpture area," said the Royal Commission for AlUla.
"The site is blessed with stunning natural features and our vision for the design has been to develop a memorable & inspiring Equestrian Village that is fully immersed in this unique landscape context," said Erik Behrens, architect and creative director at AECOM.
The firm implements sustainable, refined designs mimicking the natural context of the region as well as its cultural and equestrian heritages.
The design team takes cues from both the lighter earthen tones of the desert floor and the darker tones of the sandstone canyon walls for the architectural palette of the project.
The nucleus of the Equestrian Village is a central Village Core with its Common Domain and Oasis like planting sited alongside a natural Wadi stream.
All the individual equestrian venues - competition platforms - are grouped around it, discreetly embedded in the undulating dunescape, providing direct access from the village and open views towards the magnificent rock formations.
"The Village design is inspired by the local vernacular architecture, with its narrow streets, courtyards, and plaza spaces. It is meant to provide all guests with an authentic experience of Alula’s DNA albeit in a more contemporary expression," explained Behrens.
"The Venues on the other hand blend into the sloping terrain with their stepped terrace seating echoing the cascading nature of the surrounding land."
"Their thin horizontal roofs float across the stands to allow striking views through the lounge levels and lend the architectural composition its elegant lightness. Their roofs are gently undulating within their plain to make them better blend into the surrounding terrain and internalise its natural form," added Behrens.
AECOM will use a sand-coloured tone and texture for the stands and the roofs to fully blend into the site context and create a sense of becoming one with its terrain.
While walls and internal partitions will be made from rammed earth, the design team will use traditional construction methods and local materials.
"All Equine facilities will be carefully designed to ensure the welfare of the horses. The stable blocks will have an undulating roof design with plenty of daylight to create a calm atmosphere," said AECOM.
"The training barn will include Seawalker pools, treadmills and a vibration plate. A 6,000 sqm veterinary clinic will offer services including X-rays, MRIs, embryo transfer, emergency and routine surgery, haematology, parasitology, stem-cell and plasma rehabilitation therapies, and laser surgery," the firm added.
AlUla’s Equestrian Village, AlMuatadil, is expected to attract tourists interested in equestrian experiences in line with light-touch tourism and sustainability principles.
All organic stable and food waste on site will be recycled to create fertiliser to support the local agriculture sector. Water used in the cooling system for the stables will also be recycled.
"As a unique all-in-one multi competition hub, the Equestrian Village will put AlUla onto the world map of equestrian sports with international competitions being broadcast to up to 45 million people worldwide," RCU explained.
"RCU’s equestrian sector will make AlUla a must-visit destination for any horse enthusiast and a regional reference point for equestrian activities. The equestrian sector will fulfil several objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and RCU’s Journey Through Time masterplan including economic diversification, expansion of the tourism sector and sustainable development," said Ziad Alsuhaibani, Head of Sports Executive Programme, The Royal Commission for AlUla.
According to RCU, "the Equestrian Village will contribute to the economic diversification of AlUla County by creating new career pathways for residents.
RCU’s partnership with the Association de Formation et d’Action Sociale des Écuries de Courses (AFASEC) will train young Saudis and develop their technical qualifications for specialized work in the equestrian sector."
Further, RCU is developing a partnership with Polo Club Saint-Tropez, aiming to play a key role in shaping AlUla’s equestrian experience, with the Saint-Tropez experts providing insights and technical support into the management and development of the equestrian.
The partnership will offer across polo club management, tournament organisation, horse management and the development of equestrian facilities.
The Equestrian Village is aimed to be built to be "a genuine potential to develop an attractive one-stop-shop location dedicated to equestrian activities and to act as a catalyst for real estate and hospitality investment."
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia.
RCU's long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area's natural and historic heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit.
French architect Jean Nouvel is designing a resort hidden within the rock dwellings in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert, a cultural oasis in north-west Arabia.
All images courtesy of AECOM.
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