The Red Sea Project – “World’s Most Ambitious Tourism Development” in Saudi Arabia

Architecture studios Kengo Kuma and Associates and Foster + Partners are designing a tourism development on an archipelago of Saudi Arabian islands within the Red Sea, which will be served by its dedicated airport.

Named The Red Sea Project, the development will be built on a chain of 90 undeveloped islands between the cities of Umluj and Al Wajh on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

It is billed by developer The Red Sea Development Company as “the world’s most ambitious tourism development” and forms part of the country’s push to increase international tourism.

The main requirements that were requested by TRSDC are to design a luxury tourism destination that included: 100 villas divided into seven types, four villas on land, and three overwater. the scale varies among the types of villa, with the smallest villa being 75 square meters and the largest villa being 350 square meters; two specialty restaurants, one on land and one overwater; a main public hub with all-day dining facilities, a grill bar, kids and teen pavilion with accompanying pools; an arrival pavilion with reception, lobby, library, and a retail area; the spa hub, with fitness and wellness facilities, along with a cafeteria with wide outdoor open spaces including several landscaped water bodies; housekeeping buildings, a water sports pavilion and other service buildings required for the operation of the island resort; and the guest jetty.

The design philosophy has been to adopt a site-specific approach, creating a firm link between the building and the place where it stands.

“The design for our assets was inspired by the beautifully natural occurring elements of the island,” said Kuma.

“The relatively flat terrain of the island suggested a design that works with low, horizontal volumes and that we should look to gently curve the roof of the buildings to find a harmonious relationship with the ground, with roofs emerging from the ground.”

“Our design approach for the offshore sea villas is inspired by the rich variety of coral present on the site, and by the desire to create architecture that complements its ocean setting. we express this through an articulated spiral volume which emerges gracefully from the sea. the plan of the coral villas reflects the form of the buildings, gently looping upwards, creating an inner sea courtyard, and securing privacy from neighboring buildings. the spiral form has the benefit of providing 360-degree unobstructed views of the ocean landscape, with large panes of clear full-height glass. the buildings are cleverly designed as to reduce the number of internal columns, with glass panels at modules of maximum spacing.” Kuma said.

The Red Sea Development Company describes the development as “grounded in sustainability and sustainable tourism”, and both architecture teams have aimed to minimize the impact of the structures being built.

Offsite manufacturing will be used to reduce construction timeframes and waste and The Red Sea Development Company aimed to use as little concrete as possible.

“When choosing materials for the project, The Red Sea Development Company had instructed us to avoid the use of concrete as much as possible to set new standards at the destination site,” Kuma said.

“The remote and pristine site suggested the use of prefabrication systems. We are using a mix of volumetric and panelized prefabrication.”

Kenga Kuma and Associates will use salt-resistant Accoya wood, suitable for the saline-high environment, and clay plaster for its designs.

To serve the villas Foster + Partners is designing several larger buildings for The Red Sea Project including several hotels and its dedicated airport.

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