Dezeen Magazine

Zardun resort at Neom by OMA and Chris van Duijn

OMA arranges trio of hotels around "exclusive sanctuary resort" at Neom

Mega-project Neom has unveiled a wildlife park surrounded by three hotels and a visitor centre as Zardun, the latest region in the Saudi Arabian development.

Designed by Dutch studio OMA, Zardun is set to be built on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba in the northwest of Saudi Arabia as part of Neom.

The development will be arranged around a wildlife park where animals and plants that previously lived in the region will be reintroduced.

Zardun resort at Neom by OMA and Chris van Duijn
Zardun is the latest region announced as part of Neom

"Zardun is a very ambitious plan to bring back plants and animals that have been living on the Gulf of Aqaba. Zardun is a new beginning," explained OMA partner Chris van Duijn.

"Guest are welcomed with this complete surprise – suddenly they see the landscape that once was there, from the small insects to the birds and the mammals," he continued.

"They see Nubian Ibex and Arabian Oryx, animals that all became extinct in this area. It's almost like time travel."

Zardun resort at Neom by OMA and Chris van Duijn
It will consist of three hotels and a visitor centre arranged around a wildlife park

Surrounding the park will be four buildings – three boutique hotels, containing a total of 100 rooms, and a visitor centre.

Each of the buildings was designed to have a distinct identity. The visitor centre where "experience centre scientists will work and live" will contain 360-degree observation deck and be shaped like a stone hill.

The trio of hotels will be located in a tower and two low-lying buildings.

Visitor centre at Zardun
A visitor centre will be placed on top of a hill

"Each building relates to a different topographic element," said Van Duijn.

"We have The Wedge, which is a kind of in a valley – two hills on either side, and it's like a theatre overlooking the landscape."

"The second building is a tower – it's a monolith that stands on the flatlands, eroded by wind and time – as if it was always there," he continued.

"And the third building is the stacked hotel. There are rock formations with sharp articulated lines and there is a kind of directionality break."

The Tower hotel at Zardun
One of the boutique hotels will be tower-shaped

According to Van Duijn, the hotels and wildlife park represent the thinking behind the wider Neom development.

"We need to think about the future of the planet," he said. "It's not even a question of whether we want to do it or not, we have to do it. This is the scale of thinking here in Neom."

"Zardun is a new movement to transform how we live and how we coexist on the planet," he added.

Wedge hotel at Zardun
The Wedge will be built between two hills

Zardun is the latest development to be announced as part of the wider Neom project, which is one of the world's biggest and most controversial projects.

The scheme is the 11th region to be announced as part of Neom, although originally the development was only meant to contain 10 regions.

It is the seventh tourism-focused scheme to be announced on the Gulf of Aqaba following "upside-down skyscraper" Aquellum, luxury hotel trio Leyja, hexagonal-pillar hotel Siranna, jagged skyscrapers Epicon, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura-designed Utamo and coastal yacthing town Norlana.

Hotel at Zardun
The third hotel will have a jagged appearance

Alongside the developments on the Gulf of Aqaba, Neom will also contain an Octagon-shaped port city designed by Danish studio BIG, a ski resort named Trojena and a 170-kilometre-long city named The Line, which was recently highlighted as a "substantial risk to migratory species".

The wider project been criticised on human rights grounds, including by human rights organisation ALQST, which reported that three men were sentenced to death after being "forcibly evicted" from the Neom site.

Last year experts from the UN Human Rights Council expressed "alarm" over the imminent executions. Saudi Arabia responded to the UN by denying abuses had taken place.

More images

Zardun resort at Neom by OMA and Chris van Duijn
Zardun resort at Neom by OMA and Chris van Duijn