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Nabataean, Contemporary Architecture Brought Together at Sharaan Nature Reserve in AlUla

Nabataean, Contemporary Architecture Brought Together at Sharaan Nature Reserve in AlUla

Wednesday, 28 October, 2020 - 12:15

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) announced the launch of a project for a resort at the Sharaan Nature Reserve. Jean Nouvel presented his concept designs, which draw on Nabataean architecture, for the resort.


Through the resort, scheduled to be complete by 2024 and include 40 wings for hosting guests, as well as three villas, and a conference center equipped with 14 entertainment wings, Jean Nouvel, the project’s architect, aims to revive the Nabataean’s architectural legacy and become the first person to do so since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s ancient rocks.


RCU’s CEO Amr AlMadani said: “This project’s launch and its design’s announcement affirm our commitment to the vision for AlUla (...) to develop into a global touristic destination and preserve the province’s history, heritage and landscape. We are working enthusiastically with Jean Nouvel to see our vision turn into a reality on the ground.”


Describing AlUla, Nouvel says: “It is the coming together of a landscape and history; the history of past civilizations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece.”


Emphasizing the importance of preserving its unique landscape, he adds: “AlUla is a museum. Every valley and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s vital that we preserve its distinctiveness and conserve its beauty, 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,” he adds. “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.”

Nouvel explains how he reconciles old ways of life with our modern world and minimizes the impact on the natural and urban landscapes. He introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before; he abstracts, building within the landscape itself rather than competing with it.


Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on old ways of life to build on the present and meet the future challenges. Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, allowing them to evade the summer’s heat and the cold of the winter.


Nouvel views this resort as an opportunity to 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 carved stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, each becomes an artwork in itself. He stresses: “Our project should not jeopardize what humanity and time have consecrated;” it celebrates the Nabateans’ spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act.”


Taking on a curatorial approach in the musical sense, Jean Nouvel has created public spaces geared towards the joy of living there, by day, by night, with all the various colors, light, shadow, wind, torrential rain, and the passage of time. He invites travelers to embark on a journey through thousands of years of civilizations 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.


Guests will be immersed deep within in a memorable journey through time and space, offering a genuine discovery of AlUla’s essence. Through immersive experiences in Sharaan’s wilderness, visitors will have personalized exposure to the hundreds of archaeological sites within AlUla.


Despite the luxury it offers, however, the new resort will draw on emission-free power and new sustainability standards. It is a key part of the RCU’s strategy to develop AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and eco-tourism. It is designed in accordance with the Charter of AlUla, a framework document that includes 12 guiding principles committed to long-term development.


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