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A Look At Jean Nouvel’s Amazing New Luxury Resort In Saudi Arabia’s AlUla

The modern and luxurious resort, built into the mountains of the Sharaan Nature Reserve, is set to take visitors on a vivid sensory, spatial and emotional journey through time.

Ateliers Jean Nouvel and the Royal Commission for AlUla have unveiled new design exposés showcasing Jean Nouvel’s daring new concept for Sharaan by Jean Nouvel in AlUla, northwest Saudi Arabia. Built inside the rock dwellings of the Sharaan Nature Reserve, the masterpiece is a world-first in contextual architecture that pushes the boundaries of design.

The designs offer a deeper understanding of the French architect’s audacious vision for AlUla and his modern take on millennia-old Nabataean ways of living. With monumental outlines carved into the rocks that sustainably respect and preserve AlUla’s landscape, the designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The 2,000-year-old architectural legacy is being revived by the mastermind behind Louvre Abu Dhabi for potentially the first time since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock.


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As the concepts were unveiled, 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.”

The École des Beaux-Arts graduate also highlighted 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,” he said. “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.”

However, while Nouvel safeguards the cultural oasis’s landscape and ancient heritage, he is still adding modern architectural ideas, and has explained how he’s adapting old ways of life to our modern world and 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. He integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, 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.

The new Nouvel resort, set to be completed by 2024, will include 40 guest suites, three resort villas and public spaces. A retreat summit centre near the resort, which will draw on emission-free power and new standards in sustainability, will feature 14 private pavilions.

“Our project should not jeopardise what humanity and time have consecrated. It must celebrate the Nabateans designs and genius without caricaturing it. This act of creation becomes a true cultural act,” he added. 

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