Designed to get you up-close and personal with nature…

Despite recent conservation wins and successful breeding programmes carried out by The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) in pulling the Arabian Oryx back from the brink of extinction, the species is still officially classified as ecologically ‘vulnerable’.

To help raise awareness of the plight of this beautiful (UAE) indigenous antelope, the EAD together with Bee Breeders (an architectural competition organising firm) launched a global design challenge for the construction of a series of 25 eco-lodges, to be built within the Oryx’s natural habitat.

The Mega Dune Eco Lodge project had a brief that the dwellings should blend and reflect the surrounding area, and allow visitors to get up close to the animals, with minimal environmental impact.

There were three top prizes awarded in the competition, which the EAD will now consider for construction in the Rub Al Khali area of Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter.

The first prize

Heritage Machine, by Giuseppe Ricupero, Egidio Cutillo, Stefania Schirò and Enrico Capanni

This Italian design proposes using desert sand and a 3D printer to create structures that mimic ‘ruins’. The ‘living pods’ can easily be deconstructed and moved around. The competition judges applauded the centrality of sustainability in the design, along with the overall quality of concept.

The runner up

The Rub’ Al Khali Oculus, by Aidia Studio, Natalia Wrzask and Rolando Rodriguez – Leal

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A Mexican firm came up this visually arresting idea. The design takes inspiration from the adaptability of desert wildlife, with a form that changes form between night and day to accommodate changing temperatures, and to enhance stargazing/animal spotting. The Oculus units come equipped with a ‘versatile shading system’ placed over the inner glass shell which when shut fully camouflages the domes but can be retracted to offer uninterrupted views of the Milky Way.

The third prize

Desert Lens, by Snono Studio, Ahmad Nouraldeen Luca Fraccalvieri Jana Semaan Lama Barhoumi

Created by a Lebanese studio, these eye-like bamboo-based dwellings come with rearrangeable sail shades that blend perfectly with the desert ecology. The shades can be positioned to deflect sun and wind and allow panoramic vistas of the surrounding area and wildlife.

As mentioned above, this project is currently in a concept-only phase — so no construction has been outlined. For something heading your way a little sooner, check out these the compound of new eco domes in Jubail Island, we got a sneaky early look at earlier this year.

Images: Bee Breeders