Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio – All photos by Colin Robertson.

Saudi Arabia – Carefully isolated at the entrance of the Hidden Canyon, Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre offers basic amenities such as an information centre and a café as well as a generously shaded courtyard and a viewing deck outside. “It is a place to rest and find shelter in the open desert, while its courtyard frames views into the sky and the magnificent landscape.” Explain at KWY.Studio.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

The few, precisely located windows create various focal points up and down the canyon and increase the contrast between the domestic and the unlimited: an expression of our scale and our relationship with nature.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre is a modest structure, designed and rapidly built with mostly local materials, drawing from two local references: an archetypal walled garden, expressed in the ruled symmetrical geometry and enclosed appearance, and constructive clarity, with spaces appearing to be carved from a solid mass through simple subtractive operations.”

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

Indeed, the circular roof opening creates a particular atmosphere – a perfect shape framing the rocks and the sky. The two entrances into the courtyard are viewing axis extended by the transparent doors into the information centre and the café: the opposing windows in each of those spaces giving a framed view back into the desert.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

The moment one enters the apparently enclosed courtyard is the very moment when one sees through the building – while it’s scale and depth is made ambiguous, there is an immediate spatial and functional clarity.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

The floor plan is symmetric and nondirectional with each of the two main public spaces accessed from the centre of each side of the courtyard; facilities such as restrooms, staff and storage are located in the corner diagonal to the courtyard.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

The metric of the building is strict and reoccurring in all dimensions of its spaces and openings: its structural grid is simple, and the uniformly dimensioned spaces allow for the reorganising of the structure for a future change of use.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.

All photos by Colin Robertson – courtesy of KWY.Studio.

Desert X Al Ula Visitor Centre in Saudi Arabia by KWY.Studio - Photo by Colin Robertson.