Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. Architecture + Design

Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. Architecture + Design

West Hollywood, CA


Amangiri Resort + Spa

     The Amangiri Resort and Spa, located on a spectacular 600+ acre site in southern Utah, is a unique collaboration between three established individual architects : Marwan Al-Sayed, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy , (listed alphabetically).

     The three architects were inspired to work together on such an awe inspiring site and for such a legendary hotelier, Adrian Zecha, whose Amanresorts has redefined the concept of travel and luxury in remarkable sites. Working with Adrian Zecha and his team, the architects have created a bold yet responsive settlement that both honors and celebrates the magic and mystery of southern Utah's majestic cliffs and rock formations.

     The three architects came together under a separate company, named I-10 Studio, formed solely for the design and execution of Amangiri resort, using their individual firms to support this effort. The work was a result of an equal collaboration of the three architects and their offices, where it was agreed that the best design would be one that could not be attributed to any single individual, but that the resort would be a reflection of the best the three architects had to offer. This collaboration was unique in that there was no lead architect, and the various designs unfolded over several years of commuting on the I-10 freeway (hence the company name), connecting Phoenix and Tucson, where the respective offices were located. Bound by a common respect for the land and the quality of light, the architects have created a work that belongs to all of them, and none of them at the same time. At times monumental and at times intimate, the resort is a distillation of three unique talents and their interpretation, in the American Southwest, of the Aman experience. Prior to designing the resort, the three architects traveled and stayed at various Aman resorts in Thailand, Bali, Java and Morocco, in order to absorb what makes the Aman experience so unique. Based on these experiences and their deep understanding of the Desert Southwest, the architects strove to create an authentic experience, not one based on simplistic cultural appropriations, but rather on what was most true to this particular site and place - namely the landscape and the light that envelops it.

      The 34 room luxury hotel is sensitively sited against a low entrada sandstone rock formation like an ancient settlement, allowing each guest to experience the rawness and pure natural beauty of the surrounding mesas and mesmerizing light shows. Beyond the clearly defined line of the hotel there is nothing but the purity of the raw landscape within which the hotel is set. The focus of the hotel setting is the living room lounge and spectacular swimming pool, which wraps around the central rock formation, poetically emphasizing the pure essence of this particular landscape: water, rock and sky. The buildings are designed as thick concrete masses, carved by program, movement and light.  Frozen, timeless mass rendered as abstract geology with colors that blend effortlessly into the shifting landscape of sand, sage and rock.

     Leading from the main pavilion and pool are two separate wings that bend and fold against the rock formation. The wing to the east of the main pavilion is composed of 17 suites that are reached via an external walled street designed as an abstraction of a slot canyon, replete with the sound of water and the moisture of growing moss. The wing to the south, also with 17 suites, unfolds across the desert sand and undulating rock formations providing a strong connection to the rock forms and surrounding mesas.

     Individual rooms are entered through the thick concrete mass with dripping water bodies and into a private screened court and from there into the room which affords the guest a purely framed and exclusive view to the landscape and mesas beyond. A raised stone island in the center of the room incorporates desk, bed and couch and outside the room the stone of the room terminates with additional lounging benches replete with a private fire pits that recaptures the essence of desert camping under the stars in a luxurious setting. The bathing and dressing areas are carved out of the thick concrete masses that separates individual rooms and which one enters with mysterious light, green stone and water elements contrasting with the openness of light and views of the room itself. Several suites are designed with private pools in the entry courts as well as skybeds that affords the guest the romance of sleeping under the vast western sky and star filled nights. At the opposite ends of both wings of suites are the Amangiri and Girijaala suites which are spatially luxurious with privileged views through carved masses, generous lap pools and bathing tubs as well as skybeds and spacious outdoor dining and seating areas.

     In addition to the hotel, the architects also designed the Aman Spa, located on the south wing, that engages most directly the wonders of the rock formations formed by wind and water. Set amidst five separate pavilions and water elements, the Aman Spa is meant to engage the guest most intimately with the site and the senses of the body. The architecture here mirrors the erosion and silent time that typifies so much of the surrounding rock formations: the pavilions 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 dry treatment areas are defined by wood linings and serene light. 

     The architects were also responsible for the design of all the interiors, lighting, furnishings and signage, which in typical Aman fashion, are all custom designed to blend in with the architecture and the surrounding landscape. With modern reinterpretations of woven hides and leathers, blackened and forged steel, the interiors and furnishings includes everything from desks, couches, chairs and tables to street lights, and hooks which has been designed to capture something unique and particular about the American Southwest, yet rendered in a thoroughly modern way. The interiors allude to, yet without ever succumbing to, essences about the Native American tribes, and the cowboys and ranchers that continue to inhabit this particular corner of the earth.

     I-10 Studio was instrumental in developing and refining the concrete geology of the resort in situ during construction giving the Amangiri Resort its defining quality of being cast or molded from the site itself. The method of casting was specifically developed so as to appear as cast stone or frozen sand. The walls are cast smooth and 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. The color and finish of the ruin-like walls play with and capture desert light and become simultaneously an extension of, and a gateway to, this magical landscape of mass and light. For the remainder of on site construction activities and the implementation of the final details and of their interior design work, I-10 maintained only a minimal advisory role to Amanresorts.

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Status: Built
Location: Canyon Point, UT
My Role: Collaboration


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