Some call him a genius, others a mad scientist. But mostly, he is one of the world’s most revered and respected architects and environmental designers. The first time I met Eduardo Roth, we were at his compound deep in the jungle of Tulum, Mexico. He entered the room barefoot, wearing all-white flowing attire adorned by numerous large necklaces. He is was a soft-spoken, brilliant man who immediately lit up the room, and I was transfixed.
His home, a magnificent piece of art, is in the dense jungle where he lives, within the same compound as the AZULIK UH MAY, a cultural center for the arts. Influenced by the natural forms of nature, Roth’s home challenges architectural conventions while showcasing a unique, harmonious relationship with the nature around it.
Roth is a self-taught architect whose creations follow natural geometry and is largely influenced by Mayan culture. He studied ancient communities to make dwellings that imitate and respect mother nature. He does not destroy the vegetation and uses trees as bridges between the interior and exterior, following the natural contours of the jungle floor, resulting in unusual, natural forms.
And now, far away from Mexico, Roth is making waves of another sort, deep in the heart of the desert of Saudi Arabia. The outrageous, futuristic, somewhat alien-looking AZULIK AlUla Resort will be a stunning eco-luxury property. Slated to open in 2027 in the Nabataean Horizon District, the property will be positioned nestled within sandstone canyons and near other sites, including an Equestrian Village and a world-class outdoor sculpture park.
The resort will comprise 76 luxury villas of six varieties, a spa, welcome lounges, all-day dining, and AZULIK’s signature museum, SFER IK. As is custom with AZULIK designs, the resort is inspired by the surrounding environment; dramatic sandstone cliffs will mirror the properties, and undulating exteriors will use all-natural materials and woven fibers.
AZULIK AlUla Resort promises to protect and incorporate nearby ancient rock art inscriptions and utilize a natural system of existing waterways to feed irrigation and safeguard against floods. No private vehicle traffic will be allowed on-property; instead, an all-electric mobility system will be provided, along with horse and camel routes and hiking trails for guests to enjoy the surroundings.
I spoke at length with Roth about the project and his plans for more AZULIK properties in the future.
What first attracted you to the area of AlUla?
“We were kindly invited by H.H. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Farhan Al Saud, Governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla and First Minister of Culture, to design a hotel and a museum. AlUla is truly a magical place that has been enchanting us all at Roth Architecture since our first visits and explorations of the area. Tribes from different cultures have passed through this place and left their testimony engraved on the rocks. This land is a living museum.”
How does your unique artistic vision fit in with the ancient destination?
“We are students of Nature; we build guided by the plants and the birds singing in the jungle. The desert is a mystery full of surprises; one day, surprisingly, it rained for a moment, and an hour later, the desert was covered with flowers. Nature, with all its power, sleeps under the sands. Life clings with all its strength and becomes stronger under the difficult conditions of the desert; the variegated trees are an example of the strength that is born from obstacles. The desert somehow resembles the jungle.”
What makes this property so special and certainly so unique?
“AlUla is unique because it is born in a unique, intense space. Standing on the sand between those mysterious mountains while listening to the wind whistling through the canyons is very thrilling. All of us who have been to AlUla have experienced that unspeakable feeling of vitality, of life, of power that radiates from those sands. AZULIK Hotel and SFER IK Museum are like nomad camps from hundreds or thousands of years ago. A place to pause, to rest from life’s journey, to share, to remember what we came to this planet to accomplish by looking at those monumental landscapes. One does not return the same from AlUla. The desert gives us something very deep; it changes us.”
What do you love most about the spot where the resort will be built?
“The place itself is spectacular. The hotel will extend over more than 271 acres of desert, surrounded by three mountain ranges of incredible shapes, carved by the wind.”
What other locations are in the pipeline for future AZULIK?
“We have three upcoming projects that we will be announcing over the next 12 months. In December, we will announce an extraordinary project with 30 acres of jungle converted into an outdoor SFER IK museum, surrounded by one-of-a-kind villas, habitable sculptural residences, and a brand-new AZULIK hotel in Tulum. Along with many surprises created with Ancestral Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence combined.”
AlUla was once an essential crossroad of the incense trade running from southern Arabia north into Egypt. It was the capital of the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan, controlling the caravans. Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was famous for its breathtaking monumental tombs. Old Town AlUla is now an abandoned area of winding streets packed tightly to create a defensive wall.
Flights into AlUla are now more available than ever before via Dubai, Cairo, or Paris. Numerous resorts are now open, including the stunning Habitas AlUla, Banyan Tree AlUla, Cloud7 Residence, Ashar Tented Resort, Shaden Resort, and Caravan by Habitas, opening in October. Aman Resorts recently announced three new properties, including an upscale tented camp, and French architect Jean Nouvel has designed the stunning Sharaan Resort project.
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