AlUla, Saudi Arabia
A masterpiece of contextual architecture, the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel resort will offer an emotional and immersive experience, filled with modern and historic art that will take them on a journey through time and space.
The project will be located in the Sharaan Nature Reserve in AlUla, a culturally important site in Saudi Arabia, and draws inspiration from the amazing nearby Nabataean architecture that dates back thousands of years.
The site is around 220 miles north of the city of Medina.
The famed French architect’s designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, paying tribute to a unique 2,000-year-old architectural heritage.
The hotel will be called “Sharaan” and contain 40 cliff face rooms and three resort villas, each with a balcony looking across the desert. A circular courtyard will be carved into the hillside, in which a series of rooms will be arranged around a central elevator shaft.
“The designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site,” explains Jean Nouvel.
“AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archaeological site deserves the greatest consideration.”
“In a world-first, this 2,000-year-old architectural legacy is being revived for potentially the first time since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock.”
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.
“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 chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, all becomes an artwork in itself.”
“It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character,” he continued. “We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.”
The interior decor will leave the uncovered rock on display and will boast intricate stonework that will create pleasant dappled light. Renders depict hotel rooms with balconies overlooking the desert landscape and private pool areas.
The hotel’s entrance will be from a circular courtyard that will be carved into the sandstone hillside. From here a series of rooms will be arranged around a central 80-metre high lift shaft.
The design includes 40 guest suites and three resort villas buried deep within the rock. A retreat summit center nearby will also feature 14 private pavilions and there will be a scenic elevator.
“Our project should not jeopardise what humanity and time have consecrated,” said Nouvel.
“Our project is celebrating the Nabateans spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act.”
“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,” continued Nouvel.
The project is expected to be completed in 2024.
Architects: Atelier Jean Nouvel
Client: The Royal Commission for AlUla