An exclusive and exquisite resort offering its own secluded charm, Kudadoo Maldives Private Island is a tranquil oasis of 15 spectacular Ocean Residences. Opened in December 2018, a stay here promises a Robinson-Crusoe-style, barefoot luxury experience and total relaxation on what was once an uninhabited natural islet. The inspiration behind Kudadoo – which means ‘small island’ in the local language – came from Lars Petre, the owner of nearby Hurawalhi Island Resort, as well as nine other resorts in the Maldives. At Hurawalhi Island Resort he realized just how much holidaymakers craved a luxurious, desert-island-style vacation.
The Kudadoo Maldives Private Island eco-resort is situated on a two-hectare island, a couple of minutes by speedboat from Hurawalhi Island Resort in the beautiful Lhaviyani Atoll, just 40 minutes by seaplane from Malé International Airport.
One of the standout features of this tropical, Indian-Ocean idyll is how guests can interact with the island’s rich marine life. The area boasts the largest population of turtles in the Maldives and more Manta Rays in season than anywhere else in the nation. The warm waters around Kudadoo are also home to hundreds of dolphins.
At Kudadoo, Lars worked with Swedish company Solarwork to create a completely energy-sufficient resort, with a rooftop solar panel system powering the whole island; making Kudadoo the first fully sustainable luxury resort of its kind in the Maldives.
The Retreat, a two-story leisure hub and Kudadoo’s over-water villas are made from wholly sustainable wood sourced from accredited suppliers.
Designed by renowned architect Yuji Yamazaki, owner of New York-based architectural firm Yuji Yamazaki Architecture PLLC, the design mission was to let the natural beauty of Kudadoo speak for itself. The whole resort is infused with the creative’s inimitable brand of contemporary and elegant Japanese design.
ADF interviewed the award-winning architect to find out more, about his background and the challenges of designing a resort in such a unique location.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Tokyo and after high school I moved to New York to study interior design at the School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology of New York. I also hold a master’s degree in landscape design from Columbia University. Today I’m an architect licensed in New York.
I took my first job at Vignelli Associates, where I learned not only architecture and interior design but also industrial and graphic design. I wanted to do everything when it came to creativity.
How did your journey into design begin?
As a child, I saw the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, designed by Kenzo Tange. This experience did something to me and I kept going back. I guess I was really curious as to how someone could imagine such a distinct shape on such a big scale, and why. It motivated me to start analyzing the underlying purpose, planning and design intent of built structures, something I enjoy doing to this day.
How did the collaboration with Lars Petre and Kudadoo come about?
Lars and I started talking about the project when we met at the soft opening of another resort in the Maldives I designed. Seeing my work there gave him a good idea about what to expect from me in terms of design. We instantly had a mutual understanding of the purpose and intent of his new project and this got us really excited!
What design challenges did you face and how did you overcome these?
One of the biggest challenges was to create luxury on such a small island. Guest accommodation needed to be spacious whilst maintaining privacy and openness, a real contraction. We decided to build all guest accommodations over the ocean, and leave the island relatively empty. This way, each guest gets to enjoy 300 square meters of private villa and an empty island.
Which design features at Kudadoo Maldives are you most proud of?
People come to the Maldives to enjoy nature, particularly the pristine beaches and the sea. We’re extremely happy that the overall design preserves the essence of the island and highlights its natural characteristics at the same time.
How would you define the ethos and aesthetic of Yuji Yamazaki Design?
Simplicity or the omission of visual complexity are the keywords we swear by. My first boss Massimo Vignelli said it best, “I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant and above all timeless.” We follow this vision in whatever we design.
What do you envisage to be the luxury resort design trends in 2019 and beyond?
More eco-friendly luxury resorts like Kudadoo! New York, where I live, has just passed a law to limit carbon emissions from buildings and reduce these by 40 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. The urgency to switch energy sources from fossil fuels to renewables is spreading throughout the world. I think the tourism industry should take the lead in this change, especially when building new luxury resorts. Often, the financial investors are shortsighted, only looking for the quickest return on investment, resulting in unsustainable building practices. Kudadoo is capable of being solely run by renewable energy, and provides award-winning services and accommodations. Not only that, but the solar panels are actually a dominant design feature. Perhaps a resort like Kudadoo might convince investors to spend a bit more time considering the value of sustainable design.
Can you talk about a few of your other design projects?
We just finished an underwater resort suite, The Muraka Conrad Maldives, the world’s first underwater hotel villa. The Maldives has the lowest ground level in the world and rising sea levels are a cause of concern. So it’s certainly a unique way for Maldivian tourism to stay at the top by creating underwater luxury. We had a lot of fun working on this project.
What projects are you currently working on?
We’re working on a resort in South Africa within 45,000 hectares of game reserve. Our mission for this project is to continue to protect and conserve the area’s biodiversity, support the neighboring communities and create a responsible and sustainable model for conservation into the future. It’s a fully solar-powered resort. It may sound contradictory, but human intervention is needed to conserve the local biodiversity and it requires outside funding. Creating a resort and attracting tourists will generate revenue and will greatly benefit conservation. It’s a model of creating a luxury resort that helps preserve the whole purpose of being there. Very exciting!