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New concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel resort offer a deeper understanding of the architect’s vision for AlUla, the cultural oasis in northwest Arabia.

Located deep within the Sharaan Nature Reserve, the designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 2,000-year-old architectural legacy is being revived by Jean Nouvel for potentially the first time since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock.

Nouvel emphasizes the importance of preserving such a unique landscape: “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.”

Nouvel explains how he’s adapting old ways of life to our modern world, minimizing the impacts on natural and urban landscapes. To do this Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture using abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it. Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future. Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.

Set to be completed by 2024 as part of the development of AlUla, the project will include 40 guest suites and three resort villas. A retreat summit center near the resort will feature 14 private pavilions.

Photo: Concept rendering showing an aerial view of the resort built into the Sharaan Nature Reserve (Courtesy of Royal Commission for AlUla for Saudi Arabia)

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