Architecture

Foster + Partners' hardy luxury villas rise in the Arabian dunes

Foster + Partners' hardy luxur...
Southern Dunes will consist of 40 hotel villas spread across the sand in Saudi Arabia
Southern Dunes will consist of 40 hotel villas spread across the sand in Saudi Arabia
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Southern Dunes is designed to be lightweight and easy to install on site
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Southern Dunes is designed to be lightweight and easy to install on site
"It is about constructing more of the environment and about building on what was there long term as opposed to destruction," says Foster + Partners' Gerard Evenden. "It was the light touch, non-damaging approach, and that has led through the whole of the design from beginning to end, and that is what we continue to strive towards"
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"It is about constructing more of the environment and about building on what was there long term as opposed to destruction," says Foster + Partners' Gerard Evenden. "It was the light touch, non-damaging approach, and that has led through the whole of the design from beginning to end, and that is what we continue to strive towards"
Southern Dunes will include large mushroom-like wooden structures that offer shading from the searing desert Sun
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Southern Dunes will include large mushroom-like wooden structures that offer shading from the searing desert Sun
Southern Dunes is already under construction and the first guests are expected to arrive in 2022
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Southern Dunes is already under construction and the first guests are expected to arrive in 2022
Southern Dunes will consist of 40 hotel villas spread across the sand in Saudi Arabia
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Southern Dunes will consist of 40 hotel villas spread across the sand in Saudi Arabia
View gallery - 5 images

Following news of its under-construction airport and Coral Bloom hotel, Foster + Partners has created yet another hotel to become part of the massive Red Sea Project desert development in Saudi Arabia. Named Southern Dunes, it will get electricity from the same 1.2-gigawatt battery system that will power Coral Bloom and is designed to withstand the harsh conditions in the Arabian dunes.

Southern Dunes will consist of 40 luxury villas spread across the sand, as well as a restaurant and some central hotel buildings. Further details are still fairly light at this stage, though the renders show the hotel villas topped by large timber roofs, with clusters of mushroom-shaped shading structures sheltering communal spaces. Many of the villas will have their own pools too.

Southern Dunes will include large mushroom-like wooden structures that offer shading from the searing desert Sun
Southern Dunes will include large mushroom-like wooden structures that offer shading from the searing desert Sun

Foster + Partners avoided using construction materials like concrete and stone as it felt lightweight materials like wood are better suited to the searing desert heat in that part of the world – though the firm doesn't specify whether or not the villas are wholly made from timber.

"From our work previously in the desert, one of the most important things is to avoid using what we call high thermal mass materials," says Gerard Evenden, Head of Studio at Foster + Partners. "If you use stone or concrete in the desert, the problem is that over time it heats up and it becomes a thermal mass. They radiate heat and they hold the heat. And because in the desert they are being baked every day, they never get cooled. This means that in order to reduce temperatures you have to pump in systems to lower temperatures internally within these buildings because these buildings are just getting hotter and hotter.

"So the physical makeup of your buildings needs to be lightweight. Lightweight materials. Simple materials that construct together. They can then be transported as finished items. 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."

Southern Dunes is designed to be lightweight and easy to install on site
Southern Dunes is designed to be lightweight and easy to install on site

The project represents another step in Saudi Arabia's shift towards tourism. The scale of the work going on really is ambitious and the size of the Red Sea Project alone covers 28,000 sq km (roughly 10,810 sq mi), for example, plus there are other related efforts like BIG's Qiddiya giga-project and the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel.

Southern Dunes is already under construction and the first guests are expected to arrive in 2022.

Sources: Foster + Partners, Red Sea Development Company

View gallery - 5 images
3 comments
3 comments
guzmanchinky
If you have that kind of money do you really wanna hang out in sand dunes?
Rene Faeldan
There is such a phenomenon called ‘shifting sands’ in the Arabian desert, indeed all deserts in varying degrees. Has this project considered this and, if so, how is it dealt with?
buzzclick
Make no mistake, this is NOT eco-friendly, no matter how much spin is used to sell the concept. If you don't use concrete and stone (which I find incredulous), how are the footings and foundations going to be built? Besides, the thermal mass probs can be solved by making sure the baking sun never shines on these dense materials. We know that the desert gets pretty cool at nights. And building a roadway in the middle of nowhere? To stay in an oasis with a swimming pool? When seaside resorts are plentiful? Whatever.