Runner-up in the Hospitality & Leisure category at the 2011 Middle East Architect Awards, this boutique 63-key resort in Tunisia is designed by regional favourite Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ). The resort master plan contains a destination spa, a banqueting and conference centre, as well as a cultural village. Other facilities include local craft studios, retail outlets, restaurants, nightclubs and an Arabian Nights outdoor dining experience.
Envisaged as a contemporary adaptation of the traditional environment, the project is nestled into the site. By elevating the structure slightly above the natural ground level, the individual buildings become part of the landscape linked by walkways and palm groves.
These walkways and connections, although ‘contained’ by soft landscape, offer glimpses of the surroundings. Entering through the main entrance doors, the reception lobby has purposely been kept stark to direct the guests’ view towards the strikingly barren landscape.
Finishes hint at the richness of the local materials and traditions. As with the external treatment, the internal spaces are designed to capture the essence of Tozeur and Tunisia as a whole without resorting to pastiche and lip service.
Externally, the ‘streets’ and walkways are one of the project’s defining characteristics. The paths meander through palm groves, as well as formal streets and courtyards. They offer glimpses of the buildings and landscape beyond, but never a full view of the development.
The resort also contains an outdoor amphitheatre – located on the outer perimeter the site – which affords 180 degree views.
The resort is located along the western boundary of Tunisia, adjacent to Algeria, on the edge of the Chott El Jerid – a natural salt lake. The flat hostile environment stretches for 160 miles.
GAJ’s design maximises views over the landscape, as well as bringing a sense of “calm order” over the stark beauty of the Chott. The design intent was to translate and evolve the language of the indigenous architecture in both the usage of local materials and the massing of the buildings in the resort.