In 2009 Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy completed the Amangiri resort located in the USA’s Grand Circle region. The resort overlooks the beautiful desert scenery and the Southwest’s iconic flat-topped mesa rock formations, Amangiri (‘peaceful mountain’). Five national parks, numerous national monuments, and the Navajo Nation Reservation, the largest Native American reservation in the United States, surround the resort.
Amangiri Resort Technical Information
- Architects: Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy
- Location: Canyon Point, Southern Utah, United States
- Topics: Desert Architecture, Concrete, Resort
- Client: Aman
- Area: 243 hectares (600 acres)
- Project Year: 2009
- Photographs: © Courtesy AMAN, © Amangiri Resort
Our aim was to build something that was a contemporary interpretation of native Indian architecture.
– Adrian Zecha
Amangiri Resort Photographs
The three architects were inspired to work together on an awe-inspiring sight for the hotelier, Adrian Zecha, whose Aman Resorts have redefined the concept of travel and luxury. Working with Adrian Zecha’s team, the architects created a bold yet responsive settlement that both honors and celebrates the magic and mystery of southern Utah’s majestic cliffs and rock formations.
“Our aim,” says Zecha, “was to build something that was a contemporary interpretation of native Indian architecture. Not perfectly adapted, but hopefully generating a sense and spirit of it. Also, that it would respect the natural environment, this was the most important aspect of the whole development.”
Based on a deep understanding of the Desert Southwest, the brief was to create a place of authentic experience, not one based on simplistic cultural appropriations, but rather on what was most faithful to this particular site and area: the landscape and the light that surrounds it.
The 34 room resort is situated against a low sandstone rock formation inspired in ancient settlements. From each room, guests can appreciate the rawness and natural beauty of the surroundings and the region’s mesmerizing light play throughout the day. Beyond the defined line of the resort, there is nothing but the pristine terrain within which Amangiri is set. The suites are situated in two elegant wings, which sweep from each side of the resort’s main Pavilion. All suites offer private terraces, fireplaces, king-size beds, and private courtyard entrances. The four-bedroom provides absolute privacy, hidden from the resort behind a rock escarpment.
The Pavilion houses the living room, the dining room, the library, and the swimming pool, which wraps around a natural rock escarpment. The essential elements of the landscape are juxtaposed and emphasized: water, rock, and sky. The buildings are designed with angular minimalism, simple concrete blocks carved by program, movement, and light: Frozen, timeless mass is rendered as abstract geology, with colors that blend effortlessly into the shifting landscape of sand, sage, and rock.
The method of casting the concrete structures was specifically developed to make them appear as cast stone or frozen sand.
The 2,322m2 (25,000ft2) Aman Spa at Amangiri provides a serene setting for relaxation. Incorporating five separate pavilions and water elements, the architecture mirrors the timeless nature of the surrounding rock formations: the buildings scattered like tumbled rocks, abstracted, and made solid or liquid, heavy or light depending on program and placement. Wet treatment areas are defined by sculpted organic form and mysterious, natural or colored light, while wood linings and serene light define dry treatment areas.
Amangiri’s interiors, from lighting and furnishings to signage, have been custom-designed to blend in with the architecture and the surrounding landscape. Everything from desks, sofas, chairs, and tables, to street lights and hooks, have been designed to capture something unique and particular about the American Southwest, yet rendered in a thoroughly modern way.
Instrumental in giving Amangiri its defining quality of being cast or molded from the earth itself was the developing and refining of the resort’s concrete geology in situ during construction. The method of casting the concrete structures was specifically developed to make them appear as cast stone or frozen sand. The walls were cast smooth to subtly reflect the ever-changing light in the landscape as they are caressed by it. To the hand, the walls feel glassy smooth and cool to the touch, their color and finish playing with and capturing the desert light to become an extension of simultaneously, and a gateway to, this magical landscape of stone, sand, and light.
Amangiri Resort Plans
Amangiri Resort Image Gallery
About the architects
Established in January 1997, Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. is an architectural design studio committed to a new standard of design excellence and construction. Based on principal architect Marwan Al-Sayed’s rich background of travel and architectural experience, the studio has successfully merged a conceptual, poetically driven design aesthetic with an extensive background and deep interest in building and construction.
Wendell Burnette Architects is an internationally recognized architectural practice based in Phoenix, Arizona. Their portfolio of work includes a wide range of private and public projects. The specific focus of the practice is concerned with space and light, context and place, and with the environment and landscapes in which we live.
Since 1993, Rick Joy has led a cooperative practice engaged in architecture, planning, and interiors around the globe. Studio Rick Joy is based in Tucson.