The call for ideas DESERT ACCOMMODATION was launched in September 2021 by YAC – Young Architects Competitions – in collaboration with Jarir Development with the goal of designing a guest house for a new settlement of large villas at the borders of Riyadh. Desert Accommodation aims at exploring the potential of contemporary architecture in one of the last and most majestic sanctuaries of mother nature, Al Sahara.
There are no other places on earth that can live up to the vast Arabian desert. The desert’s edge can bring the most intense experiences to life: bitter cold, burning heat, silence, sand dunes singing, mirages, sunsets, skies studded with stars and especially lush oases.
Desert Accommodation competition gave architects the opportunity to design a luxury oasis in the Najd plateau where it is possible to relax in the shade of palm and fruit trees, to dive in a fresh swimming pool, to watch the imminent shade of sandstorms over the horizon protected by the surrounding architectures. A refuge for the body but especially a hermitage for the spirit.
Designers from more than 100 countries took part in this compelling challenge proposing their valuable concept ideas evaluated by an outstanding jury panel including Sou Fujimoto, Carlo Ratti, Lorenzo Boddi, Abdulsalam Al-Agil and Ammar Atfah from Jarir Company, Ben van Berkel, Eli Synnevåg and Emiliano Roia. The jury members evaluated the project proposals selecting those better responding to the competition’s brief. The winning projects have been awarded with a total cash prize of € 15,000 distributed to the first five teams ranking.
In particular, the French team NOMAD ranked first and was rewarded with € 8,000. The project, called “Valley of the Wind ”, designed by Clement Molinier and Philippe Paumelle, was thought along fluid principles “the air fluid, water fluid, lightwave fluid, and body movement in space. These four fluids take different paths but systematically cross in key spaces, where they interact and accumulate, creating in these singularities, luxury. The Column and its conception allow for a microclimate- inspired oasis in the heart of the project. As it passes through the superior crown, the wind is captured indoors and creates a continual draught which cools down and humidifies the inside air. The column’s hollow shape captures water on rare rainy days and leads it to the main reservoir. A hole in the slab brings light down underground punctuating the space with light beams, like a starry night sky.”
The second prize of € 4,000 was awarded to the Spanish team NeverLab featuring Stefana Zapuc and Teddy Fadous whose project was “conceived as layers of porous rocks and sand that hold groundwater and shape the spaces within. From the outside, the project blends with its surroundings. As soon as you enter, however, a narrow passage immerses you in a hidden underground world of interlinked ecosystems that meet in a central oasis. The excavated stepped desert rocks allow the filtration of air, water, and light and define the exterior and interior areas.”
The team CCDIYYDS from China ranked third with a proposal focusing on two keywords in dealing with the project: flowing and development. “Flow is the soul of the desert, just like the sand flows in the desert, Bedouins migrate in the desert. In the process of mobility, people need shelters against the harsh environment of the desert, as well as homes for their souls. We use settlements as the medium to build world-class desert residences, reflect regional thinking, and generate an iconic project that has a consistent relationship with its surroundings. The roof geometry of the building is a tribute to the Bedouin tent and a modern interpretation, and inherits the large area of overhead and overhang of the tent, which protects the residence from the influence of the sun and weather activities, and provides a comfortable microclimate for the interior.”
Two Gold Mentions rewarded with € 500 each follow in the ranking: the Italian team AGC Architecture whose project’s concept “is inspired by the oasis, made fertile by sources of freshwater. In the same way, the building is formed by three luxuriant gardens around which the whole project is developed. Just like in an oasis all the rooms overlook the garden but there is always the possibility to have a wonderful view of the desert that surrounds the building.” And the Italian team MFA by Thomas Michielin,whose project designs a system of protected inner courtyards.“The desert, vast and barren, is tamed through the act of enclosure, a theme strongly present in Arabian culture”, obtaining a system “sculpting within the landscape rather than competing with it. The courtyards and many of the adjoining structures are in fact underground, [on one hand] , to avoid affecting the beauty of the site and to leave the suggestion of the intact desert and, [on the other], to exploit the inertia of the ground to cool the rooms, also using traditional techniques such as the use of wind towers coupled with a system of underground tunnels.”.
Clément Molinier, Philippe Paumelle
In the heart of the desert, in a country where myths and legends are sculpted by the sun, the traveler, captured in the wind, makes his way to the valley. The traveler, by his journey, stops to rest at the foot of cooler cliffs. Ardent sunbeams outline what appears as an ancient pearl shell, like a testimony to the memory of water once shaping the landscape.
Here, luxury does not shine, it is invisible, luxury is to be here at all, a fertile greenland where life flourishes amidst unforgivable grounds.
The project was thought along fluid principles, regarded as four elements : the air fluid, water fluid, lightwave fluid, and body movement in space. These four fluids take different paths but systematically cross in key spaces, where they interact and accumulate, creating in these singularities, luxury. These interactions create space and matter, from which ensue programmatic elements.
The Column and its conception allow for an oasis- inspired microclimate in the heart of the project. As it passes through the superior crown, the wind captures indoors air and creates a continual draught which, gliding on the surface of underground water, cools down and humidifies the inside air. The column’s hollow shape captures water on rare rainy days and leads it to the main reservoir. A hole in the slab brings light down underground punctuating the space with light beams, like a starry night sky.
Stefana Zapuc, Teddy Fadous
It is impossible to survive in the desert. Unless you live in an oasis. There is one particular phenomenon in the desert that makes the uninhabitable habitable.
Through an underground tectonic movement that pushes an invisible layer of water in the sea of sand above, an entire ecosystem is created. Like an aquifer forming an oasis, the project is conceived as layers of porous rocks and sand that hold groundwater and shape the spaces within.
From the outside, the project blends with its surroundings. As soon as you enter, however, a narrow passage immerses you in a hidden underground world of interlinked ecosystems that meet in a central oasis. The excavated stepped desert rocks allow the filtration of air, water, and light and define the exterior and interior areas.
The monochromatic texture of the walls and their diffusion of natural light act as a constant reminder that you are right in the heart of the desert, while the abundant presence of water and vegetation create a contrasting feeling of a desert that has suddenly become hospitable.
Canopy openings corresponding to the exterior areas allow the filtration of air, colling the spaces through natural ventilation. The presence of water sheets in each of the spaces along greenery further accommodate comfortable environments.
Wenlin Zhu, Zhudong Liang, Junsong Li, Zishen Xu, Weizhi Zhao
We believe that urban spatial texture plays an important role in the process of urban evolution and development, and records the accumulation of urban history and context.
The design is inspired by the traditional urban form of Riyadh. The courtyard is the core and the pleasant traditional residential scale constitutes an architectural settlement.The roof geometry of the building is a tribute to the Bedouin tent in a modern interpretation and inherits the large area of overhead and overhang of the tent, which protects the residence from the influence of the sun and weather activities, and provides a comfortable microclimate for the interior.
In addition, renewable energy sources (solar, wind) are also used to improve the building energy system to minimize building energy consumption. People perceive the charm of nature in the architecture and desert landscape, and start a wonderful and dreamy journey.
Alberto Gaglio, Giorgia Console
The concept of the guest house is inspired by the oasis, made fertile by sources of freshwater, such as underground rivers or aquifers that irrigate the surface naturally and allow the vegetation to grow around them. The presence of water on the surface or underground is necessary and essential to maintaining such ecosystems. Rain showers provide subterranean water to sustain natural oases.
In the same way, the building is formed by three luxuriant gardens around which the whole project is developed. Just like in an oasis, all the rooms overlook the garden but there is always the possibility to have a wonderful view of the desert that surrounds the building.
Al Sahara offers a peculiar landscape shaped by time, sand and wind. A land that even today appears primitive and raw, but also fascinating and mysterious.
The desert looks like a white canvas in which every human action must fit without damaging the emotions of the place. Every architectural act on it needs to reflect the importance of persevering such a unique site.
The project is generated by a careful analysis of the place, with all its distinctiveness and attractiveness, and of the archetypes stratified over the centuries.
Youngil Kim, Markeum Kim
Firstly, it is crucial to note that laying a villa in the desert area should be associated with a deeper understanding of the site.
Seemingly, it appears that there is only parched wind in every direction that rakes dunes from the horizon to another horizon. In contrast to this, an oasis is a place of life and retreat from a harsh environment. The shelter is for men who are in dire need of protection and a point of rest.
Rishat Ansar, Zhunisbekov Baglan, Tokpan Makhambet, Srail Bakhtishat
The ideology of this project is safety-comfort, beauty-environmental friendliness and integration into nature in an unfavorable desert climate. The project of low-rise urban models inscribed in a plateau with large gardens oriented to the courtyard corresponds to the climatic features of the desert climate, provides a more balanced temperature inside the building day and night, in addition, in the courtyard green spaces, ponds, pools and fountains create a favorable microclimate for the guests of the complex. A canopy in the form of dunes creates good shade protection, ventilation and a barrier to sandstorms.
Visual and sound privacy is created. Due to the recessed spaces, we get complete privacy and the continuation of the natural landscape.
Desert Stratum: Harmony of Different Layers & Space of Nature.
“The Rock carved by the waves of desert.” There are many things that reveal their presence in the vast desert.
The rocks on the gently wavy sand and the strata formed by the wind are similar to the direction the desert accommodation is aiming for.
The strata of the rock is a combination of contrasting things made by overlapping different layers. Different layers have their own presence, but as a result, they are in harmony. Like the grain of rocks, spaces divided into each other were closely connected and planned to harmonize with each other. And this was intended to express Saudi Arabia’s culture.
Alessandro Pio Gliaschera, Ekaterina-Madlen Ikonomova
The horizontally of the landscape of the valleys, carved by ancient rivers, is the element that prompted the project to be extended along the entire site through modular partitions that, by approaching one another, define complex but controlled spatial and geometrical patterns, producing rich and never equal rooms.
The space is projected through gardens, towards the deep landscape, defined and collected between porticoes that spread out from the structure itself.
The project was born from the idea of developing a master plan connected to the incredible beauty and natural morphology of the desert. Although the forms most present in the territory are those of the most modern organic architecture, the acceptance of historical and cultural pre-existing structures becomes the most important parameter as the material used to.
Guendalina Rollo, Martina Mazzotta
Immerse yourself in ideas and in the desert and find a path between rocks and sand: Desert Accommodation integrates with the environment creating a dreamy atmosphere.
The architecture takes inspiration from the complex geometries of Arab graphic culture and simplifies them by reducing the form to a minimum. The profile that describes the structures has a soft line, punctuated by modular signs, which delimit the boundary of arches and cornices. The curved line is the recurring element that also draws gardens and bodies of water. Each corner gives the eyes and soul a different essence and a magnetic perfume, the views are constantly changing creating unique perspectives. Tradition and contemporary come together to give prestige to this splendid oasis in the Arabian desert.
United Arab Emirates
The purpose of this design was to represent one’s experience in exploring the aridity ,harshness and the countless lost tracks of the desert, surviving ,finding shelter and unlocking experiences through evolving. The monolithic structure of the dunes and the different shades of the continuous reshaping of the sands were two main characteristics which helped configure the design.
Zewei Zeng, Xixi Zheng, Canghai Cai, Fangchen Lin, Yu Su, Zhiqi Lin, Nini Su, Zitong Xu
Al Sahara: there are no other places on Earth that can live up to the vast Arabian desert. In the face of the majestic Sahara Desert, everything is trivial. Therefore, the project aims to form an imitating natural landscape by extracting the elements of the desert terrain, blending into the desert and forming a part of the whole.
Jesús Llanos Jiménez, David Lebrón Castillo
The project was born with the idea of creating a space sheltered by the elevations of the land, a hidden oasis behind a building that blends into the landscape. This building would be made up of two bars, one built in height that levitates over the other built at ground level. Thanks to both, it is possible to enclose and privatize the oasis, something very convenient for maintenance and comfort. This building line generates a wall that acquires the materiality of its surroundings and that generates a limited and scenographic entrance towards the interior cave oasis. This oasis is unique, as it is a vast expanse of gardens with pools and ponds covered by dunes of translucent white fabrics that filter the light of the scorching sun, supported by a post-tensioned structure of steel tie rods. On it, photovoltaic panels will be arranged, in strategic places, that will take advantage of the inexhaustible source of solar energy of the place to operate air conditioning machines that will cool hanging elements, so that the water that evaporates from plants and people condenses and falls again in a fine rain. This seeks to create an optimal semi-closed system in which wa- ter is not wasted, which is a scarce element in the area and therefore expensive to obtain.
Ekaterina Voronova, Alexander Simonov
Three components have been taken as the basis of the concept in working with a guest house in such a unique place: a functional system, viewing points opening from the site and a minimalistic architecture base that is able to emphasize the vastness and atmosphere of the desert itself around.
This is a fairly extensive functional system that overlaps with a stunning place in the desert with amazing views, so in order to experience the whole aesthetics of the desert, a minimalistic ascetic and monumental architecture have been preferred.
Visitors and guests of the place are invited to experience unique sensations, being among the monumental concrete volumes and enjoying the views of the boundless and attractive but, at the same time, dangerous desert.
The ranking is then made by 10 Honorable Mentions and 30 Finalist Mentions.
All the projects are available on YAC’s website: www.youngarchitectscompetitions.com