Designs for a stunning new hotel project in the Abu Dhabi desert have been revealed.

Architectural design competition organisers Bee Breeders, in partnership with the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), have announced the winners in an international contest to design a ‘mega dunes eco-lodge’ for the Rub’ al Khali desert.

The brief was for 25 sustainable eco-lodges to be built in protected areas close to where the Arabian Oryx dwell.

It is the third Bee Breeders competition in partnership with the EAD, following the Flamingo Observation Tower and the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center.

The jury was looking for creative, sustainable, and constructable proposals designed with sensitivity to this delicate natural environment.

While the plans are only at the concept stage so far, the top three designs have been revealed.

First place went to Heritage Machine from Italian designers Giuseppe Ricupero, Egidio Cutillo, Stefania Schirò, and Enrico Capanni.

The judges said it “stands out with its unique conceptual approach of ephemeral placemaking that dissolves back into nature as ruins over time. The ideas of physical memory, and an original approach to sustainability and building life cycle is remarkable.

“Physically, the gradual transition from the exterior to the interior world through a series of thresholds, and the grand roof canopy of the common hub large enough to form its own microclimate, are low-tech but powerful architectural gestures that respond to local environmental constraints.”

Second place went to Oculus by British/Mexican firm Aidia Studio’s designers Natalia Wrzask and Rolando Rodriguez-Leal.

The judges said: “The range of possibilities offered by the reconfigurable shading structure is well-considered. The circular form offers a 360-degree panoramic mini-universe for users with the ability to reconfigure privacy, views, and shading to changing needs.

“The aggregation of units to form a common hub is consistent with the project’s overall “constellation” concept. The desert cactus-like form feels appropriate to the context without becoming overly mimetic. The glazing extents and the double-curved glazing panel geometry appears excessive, adding solid thermal mass, optimising the amount of glass in the inner shell should be considered, to increase thermal performance and decrease costs.”

In third place is Desert Lens by designers Ahmad Nouraldeen, Luca Fraccalvieri, Jana Semaan, and Lama Barhoumi from Lebanese studio Snono.

Judges said it “achieves a high level of flexibility via a reconfigurable tensile structure superimposed on a fixed bamboo shell. The ability of the tensile structure to provide privacy, shelter from elements, and shaded areas in a simple, low-cost, analog manner is effective.

“The rendering depicting the user interacting with the tensile structure in the windy, sublime context is a poetic depiction of man not alienated from – but part of – the dune ecosystem.”

As all three were chosen due their ability to be realistically built, one of these designs could be coming to the Rub’ al Khali desert. We’ll let you know when there’s more news.

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