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Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Saudi Arabia Architecture News - May 13, 2024 - 12:32   1432 views

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Portuguese architecture practice KWY.studio has built a visitor centre on a Saudi Arabian desert, creating a sharp contrast with the adjacent canyon walls to the North, East, and South.

Named Desert X AlUla 2024 Visitor Centre, the visitor centre is located at the end of a narrow canyon, a cul-de-sac that implied the position of the building as well as its spatial organisation.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Drawn on a square plan, the interior program of the centre is arranged in diagonal volumes placed at the corners of the structure. Thus, the structure located among the rock formations can offer a unique and uninterrupted view towards the West.

According to KWY.studio, these snapshots of layered cliffs become essential to the experience.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

"The directional movement through the Visitor Centre, from the arrival deck on the East to the overlooking terrace on the West, is of a processional character," said KWY.studio. 

"The space is compressed through the prismatic entrance vestibule, into the courtyard open to the sky, and onwards through the mirrored vestibule expanding to a panorama view. This sequence feels natural and intuitive, allowing visitors to grasp the building’s layout in just a few moments," the studio added.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

"The 45-degree rotation of the courtyard intersects with generously shaded vestibules to the East and West, while to the North and South the rotation creates entrances to the primary functions of the building: a café, a shop, and an events room," the studio added. 

The areas resulting from the rotation are quite distinct and frame diagonal views across the building towards the landscape.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

As the studio explained, the primary axis and alternative diagonal views offer spatial orientation, but the courtyard paradoxically feels more enclosed yet protective. This is also fulfilling its shading function while offering glimpses of the sky and surrounding geological wonders. 

"When standing within the courtyard, one’s horizon is equally tilted 45 degrees and aligned with the circular oculus," the office explained.

The Desert X AlUla 2024 Visitor Centre represents the third in a series of related structures. 

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

While it revisits primary ideas, it has been further expanded, with interior spaces gaining character and significant alterations to the building’s axiality. Unlike its predecessors, the secluded location of the 2024 edition offers more internalized views, fostering an intimate connection with the immediate surroundings. 

First time visitors to Desert X AlUla will hopefully find it appropriately measured, returning visitors may notice the subtle yet distinct spatial experience resulting from the rotation of the courtyard and the shifting of its openings to the corners.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

The studio elevated some certain qualities in the 2024 edition – the apparent solidity inherited from the 2020 Hegra reference is more consequent, and the courtyard entrance experience is further refined: in 2020 a simple passage, in 2022 a transitional space through adjacent yards, in 2024 a generous vestibule which initially directs and ultimately frames a monumental panorama.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

"Our journey with AlUla since 2019 has been enchanting, witnessing impressive developments over the years," the office added. 

"Desert X AlUla has become an institution, and we feel privileged to be part of its family. From the successful first design in 2020 to the natural transformation in 2022, the 2024 process was the most collaborative yet, reflecting the mutual respect and appreciation cultivated over the years."

"It has been a privilege to share and collaborate in this series of quiet, spatial experiments, contributing to the renewed vibrance of AlUla and becoming humble citizens of this unique place," it added.

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Floor plan

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Roof plan

Visitor centre by KWY.studio features diagonally-arranged interior on Saudi Arabian desert

Elevations

KWY.studio is a multidisciplinary platform investigating the nature of collaboration within the context of specific projects. Founded in 2009 in Berlin and Los Angeles, KWY’s projects are collaborations between the principals and invited specialists.

Project facts

Project name: Desert X AlUla 2024 Visitor Centre

Architects: KWY.Studio

Team: Ricardo Gomes, Luise Marter, Charlie Corciulo and Saaraa Premji Mitha, assisted by Catarina Mendes and Rui Neto

Location: AlUla, Saudi Arabia

Client: Royal Commission for AlUla

Management: Atkins, Saudconsult

Contractor: Ansab

All images © Colin Robertson.

All drawings © KWY.Studio.

> via KWY.Studio

built KWY.studio visitor centre