Jean Nouvel has just unveiled his design for Sharaan, a resort hidden within the rock dwellings of AlUla, a cultural oasis in north-west Arabia. Showcasing a modern take on millennia-old ways of living, the project puts in place monumental designs carved into the rocks, respecting and preserving the landscape. Inspired by the nearby Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the concept takes a curatorial approach bringing together landscape and history.
Located in the Sharaan Nature Reserve, Jean Nouvel has created a contextual architecture that “will take visitors on a vivid sensory and emotional journey through time, ushering in a new era in design where every future detail will tell a story of the landscape’s past”. Drawing on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the project is the first intervention in the area. Set to be completed by 2024, the resort developed by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) will include 40 guest suites, three villas, and 14 private pavilions.
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. […] AlUla deserves to acquire a degree of modernity. 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. -- Jean Nouvel
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Preserving the unique landscape, while introducing modern ways of living, the intervention will have minimal impact on natural and urban landscapes. In fact, the architecture will be carved within the landscape itself, a typology inspired by the Nabateans' way of interacting with their environment, building sustainable habitats away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.
Part of the development of AlUla that balances innovation with heritage while unlocking the economic potential to provide new opportunities for the local community, the new resort is an opportunity “to bring to life a strong spatial, sensorial and emotional experience on the borders of nature, architecture and art […] from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, all become an artwork in itself”, according to Jean Nouvel.
On another hand, the emission-free power project is an invitation for travelers “to embark on a journey through thousands of years of civilizations and geographical strata within every detail of the design”. Immersed in a journey through time and space, guests will discover the region’s true essence and will be exposed to the hundreds of archaeological sites within AlUla.
Our project should not jeopardize what humanity and time have consecrated. Our project is celebrating the Nabateans spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act. – Jean Nouvel
News via Royal Commission for AlUla.