JEDDAH: Officials at the Royal Commission for AlUla on Tuesday revealed that they had selected German architect Francis Kere to design the ancient site’s Cultural Oasis Agricultural Institute.
The new center will aim to promote sustainable agricultural technology and economic development in AlUla.
“I have to say that I feel very honored, and I am very excited to join the RCU team in AlUla on their journey through time,” Kere told Arab News.
“It is a very important project that is going to set an example on how to harmoniously build within an historical context by bridging the past to the present to create an architecture that is an echo of the future.
“A research-oriented process and working multidisciplinary are determinants for the success of this unique project in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Kere, who won the architectural engineering prize at this year’s Praemium Imperiale Awards, has received several international accolades for his work, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in countries such as Burkina Faso, the US, Germany, the UK, and Uganda.
Once completed, the institute will work to preserve AlUla’s heritage by empowering local farmers to blend agriculture with tourism, while also helping to build a social network among generations of farmers to exchange knowledge and promote a sustainable economy.
In addition, it will be involved in the restoration of historical buildings and the construction of new ones in a project area covering 5.6 hectares of agricultural land, 9 hectares of palm farms, and 16 hectares of renewable farms.
With a focus on traditional land engineering, the institute will look to develop a multifunctional space for agricultural education, tourism, and social activities.
The commission aims to preserve the province’s unique heritage and make it a leading agricultural destination through partnerships, aligning with Vision 2030 sustainable development goals.
Phillip Jones, the RCU’s chief tourism officer, told Arab News that AlUla had been populated for 7,000 years.
He said: “Everything we do in AlUla is focused on sustainability. We really need to preserve and protect it for the next 7,000 years.
“Everything we do is done in a way that doesn’t take anything away from the destination or leave a negative impact. So, all of our buildings, all of our development, everything is green, it’s sustainable.
“We want to ensure that everything we do is in line with that commitment to sustainability,” he added.