Architect Jean Nouvel Reveals Designs for an Arabian Resort Built in a Rock

Courtesy Sharaan by Jean Nouvel

The renderings show a stunning architectural wonder in the middle of the desert.

Jean Nouvel is one of the most celebrated architects of the modern era. He's responsible for the Louvre Abu Dhabi's groundbreaking design and is now taking on another desert landscape for his next project: a resort. 


Courtesy Sharaan by Jean Nouvel

The French architect recently unveiled renderings for the hotel he's planning to build in AlUla, which is already a feat. The area, located in northwest Saudi Arabia, only recently was reopened to visitors after being closed off to most of the world for years. Here, you’ll find the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, the ancient kingdom of Dadan, and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah. Nouvel will add his touch to the ancient destination by building a resort into the Sharaan Nature reserve mountains.

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To come up with the design concept, the architect drew inspiration from the original Nabataeans dwellers. They carved their homes into the millions-of-years-old sandstone rock, and Nouvel plans to do the same as a way to honor the past and landscape. 


Courtesy Sharaan by Jean Nouvel

"AlUla is a museum," Nouvel told Departures in a statement. "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."


Courtesy Sharaan by Jean Nouvel

This preservation effort also means finding ways to have a minimal impact on the natural surroundings. To do this, Nouvel proposed a new type of architecture that uses abstraction and sculpting within the landscape rather than removing earth and rock. The result is what the architect describes as a "masterpiece." It's hidden within the rock and barely visible even from an aerial view; the glass elevator plunges deep within the stone; rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with stone balconies, and the towering sandstone surrounds the inner courtyard. It's as if you step back in time and into the future within the same moment. 


Courtesy Sharaan by Jean Nouvel

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The new Jean Nouvel resort, set to be completed by 2024, will include 40 guest suites and three resort villas.