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Jean Nouvel: “Building in AlUla is a real responsibility”

L’architecte français Jean Nouvel vient de publier les concepts de son dernier projet. “Sharaan by Jean Nouvel”, de son nom, est une première mondiale pour l’architecture contextuelle : un resort moderne pensé pour s’insérer dans le paysage naturel d’AlUla (Arabie Saoudite) fait de sable et de roches. Le projet, qui devrait être achevé en 2024, s’inspire profondément des vestiges de la civilisation nabatéenne qui occupait autrefois les lieux. A ce titre, il entend offrir à ses visiteurs un aperçu des civilisations passées et leur leg gravés dans les formations rocheuses. Rencontre avec l’homme qui a imaginé ce songe.

Is it unusual to think of a resort in such a wild and historical landscape?

Being asked to build there is a real responsibility. What is special about Sharaan is that it is a pristine landscape. You discover shapes and – when you climb a little bit – you discover that, with the altimetry, you have cuts in the sky and in the horizons which are very different. So my project actually starts from there. We are obviously in one of the cradles of humanity. We are in a desert. And the desert always carries mystery, it is a symbol of eternity. It is AlUla and it is indeed an open-air museum.

How does “Sharaan by Jean Nouvel” fit into AlUla’s landscape?

My philosophy is to always work with what is there. When one is contextualist, which is my case, it is bascics. This richness of “all that is there” is indeed these rocky masses, it is this inertia, it is the water underneath.

To build there is to deepen the site, it is to give it one more quality, it is to orient a glance, and it is to use all that is there, it is to use all the qualities that are there. And I think that there is something here that needs to be revisited – in a modernity – which is “living in the rock”.

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What makes this project unique?

Here we are in a very metaphysical, poetic dimension, on a geographical scale and in an awareness of a landscape or a world that we want to deepen, to make more sensitive. We don’t often have these conditions. Of course it creates something totally unique.

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Shahad al Azzaz, a special architecture philosophy in Saudi Arabia

Published on 27 October 2020

#Saudi Arabia