Sharjah, Sharjah architecture, Desert architecture, Anarchitect, UAE, Sharjah development, Hospitality projects, Hotel design
Fernando Guerra

Anarchitect's newly completed lodge blends into Sharjah's desert landscape

Blending into Sharjah’s desert landscape, Al Faya Lodge by Dubai and London-based studio
Anarchitect is a boutique hotel and spa designed to create a continuity of experiences through materiality, form and context.

The project is the latest addition to the Sharjah Collection – a group of boutique hotels and eco-retreats located in key locations across the emirate, spearheaded by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq).

The lodge consists of the restoration of two single-story buildings from the 1960s that were originally a clinic and grocery store, which are now the restaurant and main lodge. The project also required the addition of a new building which houses a saltwater spa. Anarchitect merged the new element with the existing architecture through its formal and modern linearity, brutalist density and low-lying proportions, the studio said.

The project is also defined by its close proximity to the UAE’s first petroleum pump, which has been preserved within the arrival sequence of the lodge, welcoming visitors.

“We based the masterplan around the petroleum pump as a point of orientation and also a marker for both entry and exit for all visitors and guests to the retreat. It is the beginning of the site’s story and the narrative we have shaped the project around,” said Jonathan Ashmore, founder of Anarchitect.

The raw, rusted condition of the heritage pieces is reflected in the Corten steel, which is used across the project as an architectural intervention. This material emphasises the additional layers to the buildings, while inadvertently drawing focus to the original buildings by defining thresholds and juxtaposing old with new. Corten steel is also used in large sheet format to frame views across the lodge, both from the bedrooms and the pool.

“Corten steel was the perfect material to define modern interventions for the project,” Ashmore said. “It’s raw, natural surface and warm, earthy hues connect to the primordial history and iron-ore content of the region and instantly creates a connection between the past and the present.

“It’s a material that will continue to age with time and withstand the elements, from the extreme sun exposure to the prevailing winds,” he added.

Adjacent to the lodge is the spa and pool area, defined by its dense cast-in-situ concrete form, use of Corten steel and perforated butterfly doors.

The building’s direct and wider landscape played a paramount role in informing architectural decisions, both aesthetically and functionally.

“In desert conditions, the wind carries a lot of dust and sand, which is why we chose to raise and project the terraces and balconies to the rear of the lodge and restaurant buildings, cantilevering them above the ground level. [This leaves] an open space beneath for the sand to move freely and not build up against the windows and doors,” Ashmore said. “The decks and terraces are also slats so the sand and dust can easily drop through the floor surface without the hardwood planks to avoid build up.”

Desert INK, the landscape architects behind the project, positioned indigenous desert plant species around the building perimeters and set them against the main direction of the wind to aid control and reduce the movement of fine-grain sand.

“This contextual approach offers additional shading with a mixture of low-lying dense planting and loose gravel, and deep-rooting trees with large canopies. Indigenous species also require less water over time, so once they have been planted, artificial irrigation can be considerably reduced,” said Ashmore.

The lodge, spa and restaurant buildings are separated by a through-road, creating a sense of urbanism within the project.

“The urbanity came from the through-road that divides the site, but rather than ignore it, we chose to embrace it and its dynamism. The front façades of each building that face the through-road frame views towards it, while limiting the visual and acoustic exposure. The rear façades of each building, in contrast, open to wider vistas for the guests and visitors, offering a contrasting experience and a clear and definable moment that [connects them to the serene nature within a few seconds,” Ashmore

He added that the through-road, which runs parallel to the mountain range, creates a cinematic setting
and evokes a sense of approaching a desert motel.

Al Faya Lodge comprises five bedrooms, a reception lounge, dining  area, library and roof terrace.