A Nader Khalili-inspired earthen eco resort in southern Oman designed by SSH International won first prize in the Future Projects – Leisure led development category of this year’s World Architecture Festival.
The Kuwait-based firm sought to satisfy three main requirements in this prototype for one of the Gulf’s largest developers, who aims to develop 1 million square meters of land in this pristine part of the country: economic viability, environmental sustainability and social upliftment. The developer agreed, so SSSH sought the green building expertise of the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture (Cal-Earth) originally found by Nader Khalili.
Cal-Earth conducted on site training programs in earth architecture in the Shuwaimia fishing village, attracting a throng of curious onlookers. After a five day open house period, the contractor hired five of the locals to help build the triple vault and eco-dome structure.
The dome is a prototype proposed by SSH to the developer as the most viable type of architecture likely to draw high-end customers seeking an authentic experience in this 30 km stretch of untouched beachfront.
For this project, all kinds of local materials were game: the team experimented with using old fishing nets mixed in with plaster and local stone for the flooring, and they scoured Oman for authentic decorative items in order to put the dome into its proper cultural context.
In addition to giving local builders new skills, a palm-weaving workshop was installed on site for women, giving the community an enormous sense of pride for having contributed to this beautiful construction.
It is solar-powered and has a separate water heater, as well as an internal wind tower, and the 50cm thick walls ensure the temperature inside is very comfortable.
SSH is working with the American University of Beirut to monitor the climatic conditions inside the new building, which will be used as an educational tool for academic institutions in Oman.
This is a groundbreaking initiative, not only because there is an earthen eco-resort in Oman, but because it has been sanctioned by a massive developer. Which means that instead of destroying yet another majestic plot of land with ugly concrete and glass monstrosities, Oman will be able to keep some of its allure with a series of healthy structures that give back – economically, environmentally, and socially.
We’re not sure what Nader Khalili would think of his earth buildings, which were originally conceived to help the poor and to survive conditions in space, being used in a leisure context, but we think this definitely beats the alternative. And clearly, the judges think so too.