Jean Nouvel for the cultural oasis in north-west Arabia.
New Jean Nouvel concept designs unveil a new era in architecture: a world-first ‘masterpiece’ resort hidden within the rock dwellings of AlUla, Northwest Arabia. AlUla’s human history began more than 200,000 years ago, yet only recently has modern tourism begun to discover the depth and diversity of its experiences and attractions.
Jean Nouvel’s new luxury architecture concept is ushering in a new era in design where every future detail will tell a story of the landscape’s past. Designs show Jean Nouvel’s modern take on millennia-old Nabataean ways of living with monumental designs carved into the rocks that sustainably respect and preserve AlUla’s landscape by drawing on concepts from the nearby Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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. In a world-first, 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.
The new Jean Nouvel luxury resort, set to be completed by 2024, will include 40 guest suites and three resort villas. A retreat summit centre near the resort will feature 14 private pavilions.AlUla will be re-opening its heritage sites on 30 October in a significant step to realise its tourism ambitions, including
the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra; the ancient kingdom of Dadan; and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah.
As the concepts were unveiled, architect Jean Nouvel described AlUla as “The coming together of a landscape and history; The history of past civilisations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece.”
Nouvel emphasised 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’s commitment to respecting AlUla’s landscape and ancient heritage has not meant shying away from modern architectural ideas. “AlUla deserves to acquire a degree of modernity,” he suggests. “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 explains how he’s adapting old ways of life to our modern world, minimising the impacts on natural and urban landscapes. To do this Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before, 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. Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.