Project NameAl Faya Lodge & Spa
|Project Name||Al Faya Lodge & Spa|
With popular tourist destinations such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, tourism in the UAE is usually associated with the glamour of luxurious, new-built, mega-resorts and shopping malls. Sharjah Collection, a group of distinctive boutique hotels and eco-retreats in key locations throughout the Sharjah Emirate, attempts to upend this notion by re-purposing two existing buildings far from the country’s urban centres, amid the sprawling crimson desert of Sharjah at the foot of Mount Alvaah. Designed by architect Jonathan Ashmore and his Dubai and London-based practice ANARCHITECT, Al Faya Lodge & Spa is a man-made oasis whose understated, modest sensibility belies a unique hospitality experience of primordial pleasures.
Effortlessly blending into its desert surroundings, the five-bedroom lodge occupies two exiting single-storey, stone-built buildings, which were built in the 1960s near the UAE’s first petroleum pumps to house a clinic and a grocery store, while the saltwater spa facility has its own, purpose-built building which nevertheless adheres to the same modest proportions. The three rectangular structures are separated by a highway, with the restaurant and visitors’ reception on one side and the guest lodgings and spa building on the other.
In order to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations of the desert setting, Ashmore has primarily relied on locally sourced stone or concrete construction whose substantial thermal mass reduce heating and cooling loads as well as harmoniously blend in with the existing building fabric. Meanwhile, by sticking to compact, cubic volumes wherein a series of courtyards, patios, and roof terraces are intimately ensconced, the Lodge’s outdoor spaces are well protected from rain and sand storms whereas features such as loggias, overhangs and fins provide much needed shade.
In juxtaposition with the subdued colours of the original building fabric, the rusted hues of the Corten steel surfaces create clearly defined thresholds and boundaries and mark Ashmore’s architectural interventions. Alluding to the area’s rich iron deposits, they also elegantly jazz up the monochromatic sensibility of the stone and concrete volumes as well as “add refinement and precision to the design, particularly for over-sailing roofs, shading elements and also terrace decks raised above the level of the sands”, as Ashmore explains, as do additional materials like teak hardwoods and plastered-renders (which also have the advantage of longevity in the face of the harsh climate).
The cubic geometry and austere refinement of the exterior is carried on in the lodge’s interiors, which along with the furniture, have also been designed by ANARCHITECT. Blessed with either carefully framed views or wide vistas of the natural surroundings, every space is closely connected to the desert landscape. Even when they go to bed, guests fall asleep under the star-filled sky courtesy of strategically placed skylights.
With only five guest rooms, Al Faya Lodge & Spa has been conceived as an intimate, one-of-a-kind retreat and in fact the venue must be booked in its entirety which allows guests to enjoy the spa and salt-water pool in complete privacy as well as the other amenities, from the indoor library and dining area to the fire-pit and viewing deck. In this respect, more than offering a chance to get away from everything, the lodge allows guests to fully immerse themselves in the primordial purity of the desert.