Anarchitect: the Al Faya Lodge in the Sharjah Desert, United Arab Emirates


Fernando Guerra,

Sharjah, UAE,


The Al Faya Lodge by Anarchitect is a refuge in the Sharjah Desert that combines the past with contemporary architecture. On the spot where the first petrol station was opened in the United Arab Emirates, the Al Faya Lodge now stands, the transformation of an old grocery store into a hotel with a spa.

Anarchitect: the Al Faya Lodge in the Sharjah Desert, United Arab Emirates

Opened in February 2019, Anarchitect’s Al Faya Lodge is one of the few buildings that can be found as you enter the crimson desert of the Sharjah territory, at the foot of Mount Alvaah, in the United Arab Emirates. This complex of buildings, which are well-harmonised with their environment in many respects, is part of a group of boutique hotels known as the Sharja Collection, placed in strategic locations across the emirate by the company Sharjah Investment and Development Authority.
They are referred to as eco-retreats, and one need only look at their location to get an idea of why. Far from any built-up areas, the Al Faya Lodge is located along a road that diverts from the E55, the road axis that crosses the Sharja Desert from north to south. Strategically located for the transit of vehicles, the resort is also in a spot that has become famous because years ago, it was the location of the first petrol station in the United Arab Emirates, opened after oil was discovered in the subsoil of the region for the first time in the 1960s. It is therefore interesting to note, when studying current affairs, which of the historical references of this land are counted, even in the collective consciousness, as to have profoundly affected the development of events in recent decades. Now, the pump is no longer active, but the point where it once stood has been signposted in Anarchitect’s design within the car park area for the Al Faya Lodge.
With its two offices in London and Dubai, Anarchitect is an international firm that works across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, particularly with large residential and hotel projects. Designed as a small village, the Al Faya Lodge is a complex of buildings built on the Al Batayeh-Al Faya Road, which was previously the location of two stone buildings that housed a medical clinic and a grocery store. Anarchitect’s designers were keen on recovering part of the existing constructions, even saving the stone they were built out of as a starting point to go on to build a modern wing with new materials. The stone volume has been functionally upgraded and is now the location of the restaurant to the east of the road, along with the car park and the point where the petrol station once stood. Beyond the road to the west, on the other hand, two new buildings have been built, which, although made of materials other than stone, take inspiration from the existing building in terms of form and proportions. Built on a single floor and with large façades overlooking the street, one of these two volumes houses the rooms, whilst the other contains a saltwater spa.
With concrete walls and Corten steel projecting elements,the two new buildings are easily distinguished from the one recovered from the original stone, thus establishing a clear temporal hierarchy between the different parts of the complex.
Jonathan Ashmore, founder of Anarchitect, emphasises that, having to deal with an extreme climate that ranges from unbearable heat, with intense and prolonged exposure to the sun, to heavy rain, to sandstorms, to low nighttime temperatures, it was essential to design the shape of the building very carefully and choose the most appropriate materials. The stone construction, much like the concrete one, has a thermal mass that can cope with these extremes and the relative temperature fluctuations. The Corten steel, hardwoods such as teak and aluminium have been used specifically to add those hints of elegance that guests expect to find in the language of modern resorts. In addition, the patina of time is kind to these materials, which undergo a slow aging process along with an enhancement of their intrinsic colours.
Looking at the floor plans, the hotel building includes a dining room, a reception, a library and a roof terrace. Inside each bedroom, a skylight allows for stargazing. The suite has a private roof terrace. An outdoor salt water pool and three spa rooms make up the spa building. The restaurant and visitor reception are located on the other side of the property and include a dining room, an outdoor terrace and a panoramic rooftop terrace.
There are only five rooms and sources of entertainment are few and far between: an intentional decision, as this small resort is merely a refuge from the harshness of desert life and from the duties of city life. Its aim is pure contemplation of the landscape, enhanced by the large windows of the private rooms as well as the glass façades of the restaurant.

Mara Corradi

Architects: Anarchitect
Client: SHUROOQ (Sharjah Investment and Development Authority)
Location: Mount Alvaah, Mleiha, Sharjah, UAE
Gross useable floor space: 500 sqm
Lot size: 8,000 smq
Competition (year): 2016
Start of work: 2016
Completion of work: 2019
Materials: CorTen steel, Laminam porcelain, Polished concrete, Parklex exterior grade timber, TMT, Ashwood, Travertine stone, Flamed granite stone
Product Suppliers
Anarchitect (bespoke Interior furniture)
Deltalight (lighting)
Roda (Outdoor chairs)
Kohler (Sanitaryware)
Manital (Ironmongery)
CorTen (exterior oxidized steel cladding)
Structure & MEP: Client in-house
Landscape: DesertINK
Furniture Procurement: H&H
Spa Consultant: The Wellness
Contractor: Alba Tower & Obaid Al Abdi
Joinery: Thomas & McQuaid

© Fernando Guerra



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