The first batch of overwater villas have been installed on the site of what will be one of the world’s most futuristic resort getaways off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Red Sea.

Four villas have been loaded onto their foundations at the Sheybarah Island Resort being developed by Saudi Arabian Government owned luxury resort developer Red Sea Global around 15 kilometers off the coast of the Saudi Arabian mainland.

Set to open in 2024, the resort will boast 73 pod-like villas – some of which will be on the beach and others of which will be overwater.

Upon arriving at the resort via a 45-minute seaplane from Red Sea Airport (currently under construction), guests will be transported to via driverless buggies to the inner lagoon, which sits alongside the resort’s boardwalk and serves at the heart from which guests can reach coral reef water villas, beach villas and a unique spa experience.

From a design perspective, the resort has several key features. (It was designed by Dubai based architects Killa Design.)

These include:

  • Cantilevering of the accommodation spaces above the coral reefs in such a way that ground impact from each pod is restricted to a few square meters at the base of the supporting column. The result is an aerial accommodation ‘pod’ that appears to defy gravity and suspends guests directly above and within the beauty of the marine eco-system. This arrangement provides an observation platform for them to witness the fish, birds and turtles that thrive in the area.
  • An entirely off-grid arrangement which sees the entire project powered by a centralised solar farm and fresh water supplied from a solar-powered desalination plant. This was necessary on account of the project’s location on such a small island.
  • A design ‘language’ that compliments the sites natural surrounds. To minimise visual impact, the façade employs a reflective stainless steel skin polished to a mirror finish. These reflective orbs float and are almost imperceptible as they reflect the colors and surface patterns of the ocean as well as the intense colors of the sky as they change throughout the day. This approach serves to minimise the visual impact of the architecture on the surrounding environment while also maximising the building’s energy performance with a near 100 percent reflection of the solar gain at the mirror surface. This creates heavily insulated spaces can be effectively cooled with minimal energy losses.
  • Interior spaces that provide spacious room for the guests, with detailing and finishes that were inspired by the interiors of luxury yachts. The room offers panoramic views to the sea with sliding doors that open to a deck, a seating area and an infinity pool with uninterrupted views of the sea and horizon beyond.

The transport and installation of the four villas was performed by Dutch engineered heavy lifting and transport company Mammoet.

A 650 tonne capacity crawler crane was positioned on top of Mammoet’s own barge, which had been modified to feature a shallow draft in order to minimise disturbance to the marine environment.

At the construction jetty, the crane loaded and placed the first orb on the barge deck and sailed to the installation area.

Once at the location, the barge was positioned using a GPS system along with the barge’s own winches for precise alignment with the foundation before being stablised by a jacking system.

Safe and efficient lifting, lowering and (re)positioning of the barge was achieved through a locally controlled jacking mechanism and a four-point mooring system.

The crane was raised to lift the orb into place. To ensure that it had enough capacity to place the orb onto a foundation without requiring the additional mass of a superlift tray, its superlift had been replaced with a system that had been designed specifically for the project.

All up, the installation reflected nine-months of planning after Mammoet was awarded the contract to install each of the 73 pods in May last year.

The crane was provided by German heavy equipment manufacturer Demag Cranes whilst the jacking system was provided by Combifloat and that villas were shipped from the UAE to Saudi Aribia with help from logistics provider P&O Maritime Logistics.

The new resort is part of a much large plan by the Saudi Arabian Government to develop part of the Red Sea into a luxury regenerative tourism destination along with west coast of Saudi Arabia.

The Red Sea is surrounded by the world’s fourth-largest barrier reef system and spans over 28,000-square-kilometers with an archipelago of more than 90 untouched islands, pristine beaches, dormant volcanos, sweeping desert dunes, mountain canyons and historical cultural sites.

By 2030, it is envisaged that the Red Sea will be home to 50 hotels, 8,000 rooms and up to 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites along with its own international airport (currently under construction).

The Sheybarah Resort is expected to open next year.


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