‘Ambitious’ best describes the scope of Coral Bloom, an upcoming resort on the dolphin-shaped Shurayrah Island, one of 90 undeveloped islands off Saudi Arabia’s western coast.
Foster + Partners spearheaded design for the resort’s 11 idyllic hotels, whose colorful villas draw inspiration from native Saudi Arabian flowers and coral. “Our vision for Shurayrah is inspired by the island’s natural state, with the hotels designed to give the impression that they have washed up on the beaches and nestled among the dunes almost like driftwood,” says Gerard Evenden, head of studio at Foster + Partners, which sourced exclusively lightweight materials with a low thermal mass that were manufactured offsite. “The low impact [our materials] have ensures that the pristine environment is protected, while the additions we make to the island serve to enhance what’s already there—hence the name, Coral Bloom.”
Biodiversity and sustainability concerns were central to the British firm’s proposal, including the protection of the island’s mangroves and other natural habitats. The resort will also adopt exclusively renewable energy underpinned by the world’s largest battery storage system. A total re-landscaping to create new lagoons and beaches—a bulwark against rising sea levels—is also in order. “Just as islands have driftwood arrive and wash up onto the shore,” Evenden continues, “our idea was that these hotels would wash up onto the island and then they could eventually wash away again if that was desired later.”
Slated to open in 2022, Coral Bloom forms part of the larger Red Sea Project, a regenerative tourism master plan by the Red Sea Development Company that includes a new airport, luxury marinas, and 50 resorts across 22 islands. The Red Sea Project is a crucial component of Vision 2030, a framework to end Saudi Arabia’s economic reliance on oil, reform the government, invest in public sector programs, develop critical markets, and grow tourism to diversify the economy. The plan is bold in scope—it includes a $200 billion solar farm, $500 billion smart city, called Neom, spearheaded by Bjarke Ingels and encompassing 21 headlining names in architecture, and the subterranean Sharaan by Jean Nouvel resort.