August 8, 2022

Blog @ Munaf Sheikh

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ensamble studio plans multipurpose ‘desert rocks’ landscape in saudi arabia’s AlUla region

ensamble studio introduces new destinations in THE AlUla region


ensamble studio has developed ‘desert rocks’, a multipurpose landscape of new destinations and energies in 

saudi arabia‘s AlUla region. characterized by a unique topography including the inland desert plateau, the mountain ranges, and the wadi valleys, the region offers extreme geological conditions and diverse habitats that closely coexist. inhabiting its deep sandstone canyons, the project introduces a series of spaces in consonance with the ongoing efforts to develop the barely urbanized area.


‘the project departs from identifying iconic rocks of alUla and recognizing their value as places,’ notes the studio. ‘from the nabatean monument of madain saleh and the pre-arabic inscriptions of jabal ikmah, to the many natural formations –like elephant rock, arch rock or hand rock–, the sculptural character and cultural meaning of these stony create strong attraction forces for both visitors and locals alike.’

memory space – menhir

all images courtesy of ensamble studio





ensamble studio’s ‘desert rocks’ introduces a series of destinations, in dance with the existing architecture of the AlUla region, which is defined by environmental actions of wind, water, sand, and land shifts that have sculpted the landscape through centuries. the multipurpose project includes a centrally-located bazaar, which serves as a civic gathering space featuring a square and a market. this flexible space brings locals and visitors together, exposing them to the agricultural history of alUla and other important traditions and visions. meanwhile, ‘memory space – menhir’ introduces a symbolic element in the area that enables the contemplation and appreciation of the surrounding landscape. this space features a tower with a history museum at its base, serving as a viewpoint situated at the crossroads between the two valleys.


other parts of the project include ‘space rock’, a visitors center located in an area of high touristic interest; ‘dune’, a center for contemporary arts and crafts that follows the undulating movements of the land where it sits; ‘star theater’, a monumental stage merged with the canyon landscape and designed to hold outdoor art performances below the desert starry nights; ‘art rock’, a monumental cultural space in the middle of the rocky landscape; and ‘therma – art baths’, which carves spaces in alUla rocks and connects them by means of bridges. conceived both as a place for social interaction and intimacy, it accommodates wellness programs that benefit from the massiveness of the architecture and the curated contrasts between light and dark. finally, the ‘canyon resort’ ​offers a hospitality program for art and nature lovers, while an art village is also planned for the area.

ensamble studio plans multipurpose 'desert rocks' landscape in saudi arabia's AlUla region
dune art center

ensamble studio plans multipurpose 'desert rocks' landscape in saudi arabia's AlUla region
‘desert rocks’ bazaar – marketplace plan

ensamble studio plans multipurpose 'desert rocks' landscape in saudi arabia's AlUla region
space rock- visitor center

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