New resort in Oman pays homage to local landscape
Atelier Pod has designed the interiors of the soon-to-be-opened Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in Oman, showcasing a quiet tribute to the imposing local surroundings.
Perched 2,400m above sea level on the curved periphery of a canyon, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar resort is the latest addition to the GCC hospitality offering, embracing local influences and traditions. The hotel will open its doors to guests next month and has been designed by international design studio Atelier Pod.
Located atop Jabal Akhdar (‘the green mountain’) on a 66,000m² plot, the resort features a selection of garden, cliff-edge and presidential villas, as well as four blocks of deluxe rooms along with spa and fitness facilities, a children’s club and other amenities.
Atelier Pod was appointed for this project after being shortlisted among 10 design studios worldwide. As Lotfi Sidirahal, founder of Atelier Pod sums up this was not just “another hotel project”, but a rare opportunity to create a resort rooted within the rich heritage of the region, which is also being promoted by a major Omani government pension fund.
“The [client’s] brief was to design a resort that can be a real destination in Jebel Akhdar, reflecting at the same time the values of Omani people. We needed to understand the local culture and translate it to according to Anantara brand values,” explains Sidirahal.
Before starting the design, he spent several days with his team visiting the area, meeting the local people from the neighbouring villages, and redrawing architectural and landscape details of Birkat al Mawz and Jabreen Fort. The team members researched not just Oman, its history and culture, but also the unique identity of Al Jabal Al Akhdar.
Although the view of the mountains, the architecture and the landscape were a fundamental part of the design concept, Sidirahal explains that it was crucial not to be “blinded by the view” and says he decided to cut visitors’ experience into sequences.
“We were so excited about the view, but we couldn’t give the view to all the components of the resort,” he says.
Focusing on the main building of the resort, designers developed the concept of Omani Fort, so the key elements in the character of fort architecture have been integrated into the design concept, but without dominating it.
Sidirahal explains: “We designed the entrance with the idea of a fort in mind. The exterior with great wooden doors is strong, impressive and commanding. There is a dramatic contrast upon entry as the interior gives an immediate impression with an open courtyard featuring green terraces and a ‘falaj’ with running water. The Omani tradition of integrating a ‘falaj’ with cleansing spaces was adopted to offer intimacy to secluded areas around the spa.”
The design team was also inspired by the agricultural garden terraces located in the surrounding mountains to create a contemporary landscape which recalls the identity of the region.
Once the masterplan for the site was finally fixed, the team was able to move on to develop the fine details of interiors– not just architecture and interior design, but lighting, planting, artwork and food concepts, ensuring again that the hotel stays true to its cultural context.
Sidirahal says that the architecture and interior design required the production of more than 800 drawings, and more than 80 different furniture elements have been designed specifically for the project.
“All Arab countries, including Oman, have strong culture and aesthetics, but you cannot order traditional Omani furniture from a catalogue. We designed almost 85% of what you see in the interiors,” says Sidirahal, adding that being in charge of furniture and lighting design enabled them to create a consistent guest experience throughout the resort.
“For example, antique brass finishes that we used in lighting can also be seen on the door, and we played a lot with these kind of elements. We did significant research on local Omani stones, and we’ve used all of them, mostly for cladding and outdoor flooring. In a way, we had to refrain ourselves as we were bringing so many ideas, but had to select those that would work in harmony with each other.”
From the drop-off court guests pass through a pair of massive wooden doors and enter the ‘fort’. In the lobby area, a geodesic dome in wood with a diameter more than 10m, as well as a star-shaped fountain in dark marble, welcome the guests.
From the garden terraces of the fort, views across the site and out to the mountains draw the visitors into the heart of the resort, with pathways leading out from the terrace, through the preserved natural landscape to the guestroom buildings, the spa, the villas and the pool area.
The hotel’s 33 cliff edge villas offer guests a personal butler service and their private infinity pool overlooking the mountains. Nestled in the heart of the resort, the garden villas offer a different kind of experiences for guests who want more privacy.
“The careful setting of the buildings ensures that every guestroom has both privacy as well as a view of the Wadi and mountains beyond. Sitting within the site, discreetly enclosed by the cliff edge buildings, the fort and the sensitive boundary landscaping and planting, lie the spa and the private cliff-edge villas.
“The view was fundamental, but there were others things to consider as some of the clientele comes from the GCC region and they have other concerns, such as privacy. That is why we came up with the garden villa concept,” he says.
The resort’s 82 premier and deluxe rooms boast spacious bedrooms, among the largest in the country, and a spa-like bathroom carved out of sustainable, locally sourced materials. They also feature rainforest showers and separate baths alongside terraces or balconies.
Throughout the guest rooms and villas, a neutral colour scheme was complemented by the warm tones of fabrics as well as other luxurious materials such as antique brass, timber and marble.
Inspired by Omani chests, ceilings and doors, Atelier Pod’s design approach for both architecture and interiors consisted of using various vernacular elements specific to the local heritage, but in a more contemporary way.
“The ultimate aesthetic is never in contradiction with its environment and yet never the same,” says Sidirahal.