One of the shortlisted nominations in the Hospitality Category at last Year’s Middle East Architect Awards was the Blu Plaza Cristal Hotel in the city of Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
The project is being undertaken by Dubai-based Naga Architects, Designers & Planners and it consists of a 198 room hotel with high end apartment residences, commercial offices and retail facilities at ground level.
Client for the 13,000m2 development is Himmah and the project is part of a drive across the country to build more hotels to cope with an influx of tourists and pilgrims to the holy shrines of Medina and Makkah – set to be the site of the world’s largest hotel development.
There is also an increase in residential apartment demand as younger Saudi’s – many of whom have lived and worked in other countries – look less to traditional extended family homes in favour of smaller properties for themselves, their children and partners.
There has also been a relaxation of traditional attitudes towards men and women living in closer proximity to one another, which – along with a desire for easily accessible amenities – means an increased level of interest in acquiring flats in high rises.
Himmah Holding, established in 2002, is a group of companies initially established with a focus on project development, Himmah has evolved through expanding its activities into other sectors. These include real estate development, manufacturing and retail to become a major force in the infrastructure and construction development of the Kingdom.
The company said: “We believe that our flexible business philosophy has served as a major driver of growth, and will continue to serve us well as Himmah continues its evolution and further diversifies its investments across new and promising sectors of the regional economies.’
The business is also looking to expand out across the region.
The firm added: “We pride ourselves in doing things differently, and look forward to further expanding our footprint in the Middle East.”
The Blu Plaza Cristal Hotel and Commercial Development consists of a hotel, long -term apartment residences, commercial offices, and retail shops. Intended to become a self-sustaining development, the project includes rest and relaxation facilities for visitors, as well as residents of the industrial area which immediately surrounds the development plot.
The architects said: “Visitors arrive at the central plaza, where they find a warm and bright atmosphere.
“The hotel is characterised by a façade composed of blue panel blinds – these slide over the glass windows on all floors, creating a moving mosaic.”
The design also emphasises the creation of a community with landscaped areas intended for people to gather and socialise, or take part in sporting activities. Leisure and retail facilities also encourage the feeling of residents being part of a collective.
The design team said the development is aimed at being a “self-sustaining combination of rest and relaxation” for both transient visitors and long term residents.
It includes a gymnasium and spa facilities along with suites ranging from “Junior” to “Royal”. All have extremely high-end finishes and style is maintained throughout the interiors.
The development also includes meeting rooms, a banqueting hall which can accommodate events as well as formal dinners and prayer facilities.
There are also tennis courts and swimming pools as part of the overall site. The total hotel footprint is 5,100m2 while the entire project occupies an area of land measuring 10,670m2.
Access to the site has also been carefully considered with roads and associated infrastructure incorporated into the original plans. There are also parking facilities for 111 vehicles.
Dr Shams Naga is an architect who has a unique philosophy when it comes to design. He is one of the most respected design professionals in the GCC and said: “Of the numerous descriptions of Architecture, my favorite one is ‘Architecture is the study of culture’, which sums up the encompassing complexity of architecture in our society.
“In my experience, successful architecture cannot be achieved by any singular idea – it requires a harmonious interweaving of the metrics surrounding a design project.
“These may range from grand items, such as a building orientation, to items like the arrangement of cabinets and drawers in a kitchen.
“In my design approach, I ensure nothing is overlooked – every part and corner of the project is moulded with the highest integrity and commitment. As a study of culture, I also see architecture as a futurist profession.”