Architecture & Design

Maraya ... featuring a total of 9,740 sq m of mirrors.

Maraya ... featuring a total of 9,740 sq m of mirrors.

Mirroring the desert

September 2020

A cube-shaped multi-purpose concert and entertainment venue that reflects the vast and stunning desert surroundings of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla region has won yet another accolade: this time emerging as a winner in one of the world’s biggest architecture awards.

Maraya in northwestern Saudi Arabia has been named a winner in the Architizer A+ Awards, the world’s largest awards programme focused on promoting and celebrating the year’s best architecture.

Run by New York-based, a seven-million-plus online community of leading architects, the annual awards consist of five peer judged finalists with one jury winner and one popular choice winner in each category.

A finalist in the Architecture + Glass category, Maraya was selected by distinguished luminaries from fields as diverse as design, technology, real estate and fashion. Finalists were selected for excellence in architecture with criteria based on form, function and impact. Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category to be named the 2020 popular choice winner.

Maraya ... a cube-shaped concert and entertainment venue in AlUla.

Maraya ... a cube-shaped concert and entertainment venue in AlUla.

Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer at Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), welcomes the announcement saying that though Maraya is currently closed for further enhancements, the venue will be a key draw factor when AlUla officially re-opens to visitors as a year-round destination in late 2020.

“It’s perhaps particularly gratifying to win the popular vote. Visitors are truly mesmerised by Maraya’s impact and by the way it blends in so perfectly and reflects its surroundings,” he remarks.

“Maraya has been conceived and designed as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 and in line with RCU’s core values to develop AlUla using a sensitive and responsible approach. AlUla is a significant, undiscovered archaeological wonder and we look forward to welcoming the world when we re-open the sites,” Jones adds.

Maraya is one of the world’s architectural marvels, featuring a total of 9,740 sq m of mirrors, supplied by Guardian Glass, over the exterior walls of ots cube-shaped structure.

The building set a Guinness World Record for being the largest mirrored building in the world in 2019 with its 26-m-high theatre.

Maraya’s giant retractable window of more than 800 sq m opens to nature for an authentic experience blending nature and entertainment.

In Arabic ‘Maraya’ means mirrors. The building was inspired by the landscape in the same way that the landscape has inspired architecture and art for civilisations from the Nabataeans through to this day, says the RCU.  Giò Forma’s Italian-German group of Florian Boje, Cristiana Picco and Claudio Santucci headed the architecture and design team for Maraya while Massimo Fogliati and Fabio Pavanetto of Black Engineering managed the project.

International artists who performed at Maraya in its first year include Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Yanni. The site has recently been a location for commercial film shoots by luxury brands Cartier, Rolls Royce and Monot.

AlUla is a destination of global significance with 200,000 years of human history and culture at the crossroads of ancient civilisations.

“AlUla was at the crossroad of cultural exchange for millennia. With Maraya, we are one step further to realising our vision to recreate a place to dream, a place that inspires and facilitates the sharing of cultures and ideas,” says Jones.

Another focus for RCU is to deliver economic value to local residents and business via an ambitious business events strategy. With its central location in the GCC and enhancements including increased capacity, a dedicated conference floor, a ground-floor restaurant and a stunning rooftop terrace, Maraya is well-positioned to host regional and international business events, conferences as well as weddings and other special events when it re-opens ready for business in late 2020.  

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