Foster + Partners reveal Southern Dunes hotel in the desert of Saudi Arabia

The British studio’s second inland resort under phase I for the Red Sea Project along Saudi Arabia’s west coast will have 40 hotel villas, all covered in asymmetric timber roofs.

by STIRworldPublished on : Feb 26, 2021

Touted to be one of the world’s most aspiring developments in luxury tourism - The Red Sea Project is soon to become a vision of a diversifying experience for international tourists and travellers along Saudi Arabia’s west coast. Part of this mega project is the Southern Dunes hotel, one of the two inland resorts here being designed by Foster + Partners, which is expected to be completed by 2022. The hotel scheme is conceived as an array of wavy timber roofs that house 40 villas below, arranged in two lines to get maximum visibility of the stunning desert landscape that stretches out in front of them.

Southern Dunes is located around 100 kms northeast of Umluj, a beach town on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast | Southern Dunes by Foster + Partners | STIRworld
Southern Dunes is located around 100 kms northeast of Umluj, a beach town on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast Image: Courtesy of The Red Sea Development Company

The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) recently released the images of the hotel which will be constructed 100 kms northeast of the Umluj beach town on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. The development of the Southern Dunes hotel will also include restaurants, central hotel buildings, a pool, a spa, staff accommodation for 700 employees and the new interlinking infrastructure. Local firm Al-Bawani is managing the civil and structural works across the Southern Dunes villas.

The complex will house 40 luxury villas covered in asymmetrical timber roofs | Southern Dunes by Foster + Partners | STIRworld
The complex will house 40 luxury villas covered in asymmetrical timber roofs Image: Courtesy of The Red Sea Development Company

British international studio Foster + Partners plans to employ only lightweight materials for the resort design, and not use stone or concrete as such building materials heat up and in a desert area it would take a really long time for them to cool down. The studio also does not want to increase the hotel structure’s dependence on artificial cooling. "What is very important about anything sustainable is two things: one is giving people choices. And the second thing is looking at what the resultant reaction of what you do will be. So, when we looked at the islands our approach was to have a light touch. As light as we could possibly be," mentioned Gerard Evenden, Head of Studio at Foster + Partners.

Common buildings sheltered by forms similar to clusters of umbrellas | Southern Dunes by Foster + Partners | STIRworld
Common buildings sheltered by forms similar to clusters of umbrellas Image: Courtesy of The Red Sea Development Company

While the asymmetrical roof design is covered with a fabric material supporting the timber frames, the communal buildings and spaces are planned to be sheltered by curved umbrella-like clusters assembled atop timber columns. "The more transportable finished items we can bring, the better. And that will lead not only to fast reactive buildings but will also lead to incredibly energy efficient construction," added Evenden.

The drawing board project further intends to design lightweight structures that can be incorporated using fabricated elements, built offsite to accelerate the process of construction.

Porous and transparent materials will be used for lightweight hotel structures | Southern Dunes by Foster + Partners | STIRworld
Porous and transparent materials will be used for lightweight hotel structures Image: Courtesy of The Red Sea Development Company

The Southern Dunes hotel is developed as part of the first phase of The Red Sea Project. Foster + Partners has also designed the Coral Bloom Resort on Shurayrah Island, that mimics the colours and shapes of coral reefs native to the area.

The Red Sea Project - being developed over 28,000 sqm of pristine lands and waters along Saudi Arabia’s west coast - is on track to welcome the first guests by the end of 2022, with the opening of the international airport and a few hotels. All 16 hotels part of the Phase I will be in operation by end of 2023.

Upon completion in 2030, the destination will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites. Tourists to this destination can also soak in the extravagance of luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment and leisure facilities, sweeping desert dunes, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes, and ancient cultural and heritage sites. 

Project Details

Name: Southern Dunes
Location: Saudi Arabia
Architect: Foster + Partners
Year of completion: 2022

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