Even in the desert, less is more
Jonathan Ashmore ANARCHITECT
Casamia Building Materials
Of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, Sharjah is the one responsible for preserving the traditions and culture of the young nation and for guiding its cultural development policies and actions. Named Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998 and World Book Capital in 2019, this tiny jewel at the edge of Rub’ al-Khālī, the second largest sandy desert in the world, strikes a judicious balance between the preservation and restoration of the past and the relentless pursuit of growth and internationalisation typical of the country as a whole.
Located just a twenty-minute drive from Dubai, the Emirate of Sharjah has a very different skyline to its more populous neighbour that reflects its intention to protect its traditional desert architecture, often combining it with cutting-edge technology and in some cases even the highest levels of luxury.
One example is the Al Faya Lodge, the latest pearl in the Sharjah Collection, a series of boutique hotels and eco-retreats built in key locations across the emirate. Immersed in the desert landscape at the foot of Mount Alvaah in close proximity to the country’s first petrol pump, the lodge was reimagined from two single-storey stone buildings from the 1960s, previously occupied by a clinic and later a grocery store. This elegant modern hotel and restaurant together with a newly built saltwater spa building was designed by architect Jonathan Ashmore, director of Anarchitect Studio, with offices in Dubai and London. “Desert conditions present extreme heat in summer with intense and prolonged sun exposure, so it is important to consider these factors when first designing the form and mass of the building and to select suitable and robust materials,” he explained. “Desert sites are exposed to all the elements and not just sunlight. The elements also include driving rain, sandstorms and low temperatures at night. Locally sourced stone or concrete construction provide heavy thermal mass to deal with these extremes with regards to temperature fluctuations. Surface materials like Corten steel and secondary structure materials like robust hardwoods and aluminum were also explored to 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.”
These solutions, together with sections of plastered render walls, offer a subtle tonal change and texture to the buildings which are intended to mature with timeless longevity in response to the impact of the climate.
The lodge offers five rooms conceived as havens to escape the hectic pace of urban living. Each room has a feature skylight for stargazing, while the luxe room has the added experience of a private roof terrace. The open-air saltwater pool, three salt spa experiences, library and dining room with enormous windows looking out onto the desert landscape complete the offerings.
The interior walls are covered with Ossido collection porcelain tiles from Laminam chosen in the Bruno finish, which fit in well with the perfect geometry and minimalist style of the lodge. “For the interiors we wanted to recreate the essence of the colour and texture of the CorTen steel used outside while also creating a 3 metre high ceiling, particularly in the hotel building, that would give the rooms relaxing proportions,” explains the architect. “Given the limited room for manoeuvre due to the shell of the existing building, the colour, large dimensions (3×1 m) and thin profile (3 mm) of Laminam surfaces proved ideal for this exciting redevelopment and renovation project.”
300x100 cm (3 mm spessore/thickness)
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0.3%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): da A a B
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 175 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R9
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant