Saudi Arabia Competition — The Cluster House


The Cluster House was selected after an RIBA competition to take forward to design stage. The site consists of a spectacular formation of rocks which includes new residential and cultural buildings as well as a theatre carved into the rock, towards the northern end of the Al’Ula masterplan located on the key Al’Ula Valley Wadi spine. The Cluster House is a dramatic response to the otherworldly landscape formations which typify this area of Saudi Arabia. The proposed dwelling responds to the ‘carved’ typology, using a restrained palette to minimise materials. Using the geology and earth as principal materials, the carved stone will be reused to create 3D printed forms. These 3-D forms will be produced on site by creating a temporary structure to house the printing station, thereby combining local materials, recycling aggregate providing efficiency of construction which will enable carbon offset, ensuring a clear ‘materials passport’ from responsible supply chains.

The house evolves from the clustering of 3D pods either balancing on elegant columns or nestled into the cliffs creating the composition of an organic evolution. Each cluster of pods offers a different orientation and views of the stunning landscape. The private dwelling spaces are a hybrid of carved and 3D printed pods whilst a partially enclosed circulation spine runs along the rock face, providing a processional route to the upper levels. The organic domes are capped with oculi capped with the traditional ‘mashribya’ whilst also making use of passive cooling. The positioning of the structure on site responds to the air flows through the natural rock formations thus sympathetically drawing on maximising the natural environmental conditions of the warm Sahara desert.