El Gouna, Egypt
“The idea was to give Gouna a cultural venue that would unify the town in a strong urban gesture and give it a new point of focus with a captivating cultural venue,” states Christina Seilern.
Christina Seilern and her design team at London-based Studio Seilern Architects together with Landesign Landscape Architecture, have enclosed the Gouna Festival Plaza in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna, Egypt, with the design of a trio of colonnades.
Built within an artificial lagoon, the plaza is the first stage of the Gouna Conference and Culture Centre, which was designed to be a landmark cultural destination for the resort town, approximately 25km northwest of Hurghada International Airport.
Thanks to its mild climate, El Gouna hosts many internationally acclaimed cultural and sports events throughout the year.
Following the immense success of the El Gouna Film Festival, Orascom DH commissioned Studio Seilern Architects to design the El Gouna Conference and Culture Centre, which aims not to be the largest conference center in Egypt but the most spectacular and memorable one. It will host many international events and create a new landmark destination for this dynamic and evolving town.
The plaza was developed for Egyptian-Montenegrin businessman Samih Sawiris, who owns the resort town and previously commissioned Studio Seilern Architects to design the Andermatt Concert Hall in Switzerland, as the first stage of the cultural complex.
The complex will include a 600-seat concert hall, a 2,000-seat conference center, and an open-air venue surrounded by a colonnade in the heart of an artificial lagoon. Landscape and water features in and around the complex create an oasis, protected from the sun and wind.
The building’s inspiration is rooted in middle eastern and Egyptian traditional architecture with the scale of ancient Egyptian architecture a guiding factor in the conceptualization of the scheme.
“The use of the arch was generated from the notion that the arch is a Moorish invention. Combined with the monumental scale of Egyptian architecture, such as is seen in Luxor, we played with this idea by oversizing the perimeter columns,” states Seilern.
“We were keen that the design emerges from a language that relates to the history and culture of the site.”
A series of arched barrel vaults surround the auditorium and provide a shaded perimeter layer, where inside and outside merge as they are framed by a sculptural, contemporary interpretation of the traditional Islamic arch.
The interior of the concert hall is inspired by the impressive atmosphere and spectacular textures of the rock formations revealed by the sun’s rays in surrounding canyons and caves.
The 620-seat concert hall is designed to create an awe-inspiring atmosphere with an undulating terrain of acoustic reflectors that wrap up a circular stage.
The plaza will function as an open-air venue for a variety of events including film screenings and award ceremonies. Landscape planting and a pool create a pleasant environment protected by the surrounding monumental colonnade.
“The warm sand-like coloring of the column cladding is evenly lit at night, appearing as a large sculpture reflected in a mirror-like body of water,” Seilern continues.
“The effect that we sought is one of absolute peace – a space for reflection which can turn into a festive place for gathering.”
Project: Gouna Plaza
Architects: Studio Seilern Architects
Design Team: Christina Seilern, Alberto Favaro, Julia Chiras, Charles Rich, Brigitta Hajdu, Andreani Papaianou, Thomi Steliou, Maria Brempou, Sara Fontana, Daphne Katradikalidi, Win Man, Gloria Martin, Roberto Rocchi, Lauren Tang, Traian Marius Unguerenu, and Marcos Velasco
Structural Design Engineers: Eckersley O’Callaghan Engineers
Structural Engineers (Local): ECO, CPD
Landscape Architects: Ismail Mostafa, Landesign Landscape Architecture
General Contractor: Red Sea Construction, OCI, CPD
Client: Orascom Development Egypt
Photographers: Paul Riddle