The colours of the desert
Black Engineering Dwc-Llc
Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest mirror-clad building, the Maraya Concert Hall is located in the Al’ula region, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the Royal Commission for AlUla wanted to develop a cultural and tourist project that would stand as a symbol of radical transformation for the country. The building, which will also host events for the next G20 summit, is situated in an area renowned for its historical and archaeological vestiges of great civilizations of the past. Once an important commercial crossroads, it also served as a resting station for pilgrims travelling to Mecca and a transit point for the legendary Hijaz railway that connected Damascus with Medina.
The project to promote the area at a world level has pursued sustainable criteria with a view to preserving both the historical and the natural heritage. In particular it aimed to respect the desert location and the rocks sculpted by the wind and humans, including the famous rock tombs of Mada’in Saleh at the Nabatean site of Hegra. “We embraced the giant mirror concept because we felt that nothing visible should be built here,” designer Florian Boje told us. And thanks to its mirror-clad façades, the Maraya (which means “mirror” in Arabic) appears to dissolve into the landscape like a mirage, becoming a minimal but at the same time powerful presence.
The Royal Commission awarded the project to an Italian-led team consisting of Black Engineering Dwc-Llc for project management, Gioforma for architecture and design, and Gap progetti for the engineering concept. Originally created as a temporary venue for the first Winter in Tandora Festival in 2018, it was rebuilt as a larger, permanent structure for the 2019 edition and is now a 100×100 metre volume with a height of 26 metres equipped with the most advanced theatrical and operatic audio systems and an enormous stage with retractable glass that can open onto the exterior. Another Italian company, Mirage, contributed to the interiors by supplying custom-made porcelain slabs used on the walls of the hall and the panoramic terrace. They were designed “to recreate the finishes and colours of the surrounding limestone rocks, which range from deep burgundy red through to beige, and change over the course of the day as they respond to the light”, explains Boje. The Alula Light and Alula Dark versions evoke landscapes of rocks and sand both in their colours, accentuated by gradient and oxidation effects, and in their slightly textured structure that creates a material look enhanced by the slight tonal variations from one piece to another. These two products were also chosen for the airport renovation project, likewise commissioned to Gioforma, where they were used on the walls of corridors, lounges and waiting rooms. The ceramic slabs are also a striking feature of the external elevation of the new terminal. Interspersed with concrete panels mixed with local rocks, they create a graphic pattern delimited by horizontal brass inserts inspired by the nearby Al-aqra’a, the mountain engraved with 450 inscriptions that has been identified as one of the largest open-air libraries in Saudi Arabia.
40x120 - 45x90 - 60x120 cm
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): 0,05%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): UA ULA UHA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): 135 mm3
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): R11
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant