In the heart of the desert, in the cradle of ancient human civilization, a new architectural masterpiece will be created. Inspired by both man and nature, in Al-Ula’s desert historical site a new direction in modern architecture shall start. A direction long forgotten by human memory though it was the very first start of human history. This is Jean Nouvel “Sharaan” Resort.
The site of the project is a very unique location having both: environmental and historical\cultural importance. “Al-Ula” desert and canyons are located Northwest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Over thousands of years, the wind and occasional rain produced there the most magnificent canyons and rock formations. Moreover, it is KSA’s first listed World Heritage Site by the UN, having the “Hegra” city Nabatean monuments. The Nabateans were ancient Arab traders who inhabited the Arab peninsula and the southern Levant more than 2000 years ago. The Greco-Roman Architecture had a big influence on their architecture, and they adapted it to their context. They carved their homes and tombs in huge sandstone formations and produced magnificent monuments such as “Petra” in Jordan and “Hegra” city in the KSA.
Due to the uniqueness of the site, many factors were considered in the concept development. The site is an open-air museum for natural and archeological wonders, that’s where its importance lies. So the question was: How to introduce the project into such conditions without disturbing this harmony, but on the contrary, add a new value without competing with it?
This responsibility of human intervention is why the contextualist approach is the most suitable. It deals with “what’s already there”. Thus the architect decided to revisit a concept long forgotten, but with a modern approach; the concept of Inhibiting a rock. This was the main concept of Nabatean architecture. That’s how the idea of the “Cave Hotel” came into existence. To sculpt from within, some of the rock formations in the landscape, leaving the external features almost intact. Giving the users a chance to experience eternity and mystery from inside.
The Internal Formation
This concept and context coming together will automatically result in an invention. Consequently, It is re-inventing a new way of life, while keeping it as environmentally friendly as possible. To consume the least possible amount of energy, and depend mainly on natural energy sources and natural ventilation.
The internal formation of the project will be concerned mainly with playing with the solids, voids, and light effects. It will make use of the wind-created patterns and enhance it, bringing in light, shadows, and forming unforgettable memory patterns. In short, creating almost a natural “Mashrabeya” effect.
Shadow and light in rooms, Photo Courtesy: Ateliers Jean Nouvelle
The Architectural Aspects, Spaces, and Experience
Jean Nouvel “Sharaan” Resort is set to be finished by 2024. It will have 40 guest rooms of different types having internal views and overlooking the magnificent natural horizons, in addition to patterns and motifs carved on the stone walls. Moreover, it will include different patios, leisure spaces, and all the required services as well.
Also, It will have an 80-meter light well to bring light into the different parts of the project and showing the monumental scale of these formations.
In addition to that, there will be a hollow sphere sculpted at the top of the formation, which could only be seen from the sky, opening up on lobbies, rooms, and different spaces, forming an internal patio and emphasizing the movement of the Sun throughout the day.
An Emotion-driven Design
Jean Nouvel “Sharaan” Resort whole idea revolves around using human emotions. Above all, The emotions generated upon contact with the beauty of nature, and the greatness of history. Evoking them by having a unique experience inspired by the philosophy, poetry, and eternity of the context, blending in harmony with human intervention.