A world-first 'masterpiece' resort hidden within the rock dwellings of AlUla
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.
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."
The new resort is part of the development of AlUla guided by 12 strategic principles drawn from the Commission's Framework Plan and Charter. This approach to development balances innovation with heritage, arts and culture while unlocking economic potential to provide new opportunities for the local community.
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.
About Jean Nouvel
Born in Fumel, France, in 1945. Jean Nouvel was assistant to the architect Claude Parent and inspired by urban planner and essayist Paul Virilio, he started his first architecture practice in 1970. His strong stances and somewhat provocative opinions on contemporary architecture in the urban context together with his unfailing ability to inject originality into all the projects he undertakes have formed his international image. His works have gained world-wide recognition through numerous prestigious French and International prizes and rewards, including the prestigious Pritzker Prize awarded in 2008.