RIYADH: Isolated in the Kingdom’s northwestern desert, the small town of AlUla is not only sharing its historic treasures with the world but also giving residents a new design and feel to their homes.
As well as invigorating tourism, reviving the economy, generating jobs and sending youth abroad for scholarships, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is enhancing the lives of residents by designing their homes as part of a major urban regeneration project for the historic Saudi location.
The AlUla Design Studio (UDS), launched by RCU, is a new public service that aims to help locals shape the future development of their community.
“We’re driven by good design, good outcomes, by protecting our heritage, the environment, and by making sure that we create sustainable infrastructure,” Stephen Murray, chief of county zoning and planning at the RCU, told Arab News.
“We would like to be a model not only for Saudi Arabia but also the world (on) how you can design new places, live with the environment, be sustainable and protect it, but also open it to the world.”
Murray said that the commission wants to invite the entire world, including locals, to enjoy AlUla. “It’s not about just tourists from overseas, it’s about everyone.”
The first phase of the scheme will concentrate on regeneration in AlUla South, focusing on the creation of more green spaces, including parks, playgrounds and playing fields, with the revitalized Wadi AlUla as a connecting natural thread.
“One of the things we’ve looked at, at the royal commission, is creating great places to live, creating neighborhoods, places where people enjoy and the community can grow together,” said Murray.
The RCU wants to promote AlUla town as a model of urban planning, regeneration and quality of life in the Kingdom, and the UDS initiative will provide residents of AlUla South with the chance to choose property styles that suit their locality.
We’re driven by good design, good outcomes, by protecting our heritage, the environment, and by making sure that we create sustainable infrastructure.
Stephen Murray, Chief of county zoning and planning at the RCU
The specialized architectural design studio will offer those looking to build residential or commercial properties a range of design templates.
Drawing inspiration from traditional Arabian architecture, such as shaded inner courtyards, open rooftops and natural light, the templates can be mixed and matched to enable residents to realize their dream property.
By integrating modern sustainable technologies and building materials, the designs take into account comfort and quality of life while embracing the colors of AlUla to harmonize with the area’s history, heritage, and environment.
“These houses are probably the most significant investment we ever make. Definitely, these are places where we laugh, where we share joy and fantastic family moments,” Murray said.
The designs also maximize the use of space on each plot of land, providing residents with homes meeting family needs and ensuring that all new buildings contribute to a more community-focused AlUla.
Wider boulevards and shaded walking areas will also be created, leaving room for public green spaces.
“We see ourselves as a service, as part of Vision 2030 (through) building the community. The idea is there are things we would like (locals) to achieve,” he said, adding that the studio would like to build on the beautiful colors of AlUla.
Good housing and beautiful infrastructure not only enhances quality of living but, more importantly, builds the right facilities to complement and support the project, he said.
“We’re planning to nearly double the amount of private green spaces in this area from 48,000 meters square to 80,000.”
The RCU is invested in meeting the needs of city residents, who have offered positive feedback on the project.
“We got great support for the release of land, for improving space, for improving the facilities to support the people that live in these areas.
“People we talked to were interested in the fact that we were planning to ensure that they could go outside their home blocks (and) still have privacy, that we were encouraging them to use roof spaces and that we were encouraging shaded walkways,” said Murray.
The templates align with the new user-friendly architectural guidelines recently released for AlUla residents and landowners looking to build properties. The guidelines, which also emphasize sustainable building materials and integration with infrastructure, are available to download from the UDS website at http://uds.rcu.gov.sa.
Residents can get full details on how to kick-start the development of their new home or business by visiting the website and can appoint an architect via the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs’ Balady website as the first step in applying for a building permit.
Urban development of this kind is part of the RCU’s plan to improve quality of life for AlUla residents, driven by RCU Gov. Prince Badr bin Farhan.
The development will encompass upgrades to telecommunications and infrastructure, including the expansion of Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdul Aziz Airport to handle 400,000 visitors annually; improvements to local services such as doubling the number of primary and intermediate schools; a new health care clinic; more urban green environments; plus new playgrounds and sports fields.