Khat is a collaboration work of Studio Toggle architects with artist Aseel AlYaqoub , as a part of a competition, to design a Small lodging in AlUla, the home of the archaeological site of Al-Hijr (Madain Salih), the first UNESCO World heritage property to be located in Saudi Arabia. AlUla’s history is memorialized as past, crystalized into precious moments curated by archaeologists, historians and locals. In the midst of its valleys, the craftsmanship and scale of the Nabataean tombs bring the imagined past near.
In the centre of this valley lay three large rocks that seem to have fallen from the sky, mirroring their surrounding landscapes. In aerial view, vast amounts of sand are dotted with intermittent mountainous forms that suddenly multiply in a disorderly fashion. The grand shadows of the mountains and a vertical shaft on one of them suggests that during heavy rainfall, this was a water source from where the water rushes down into the water basin beneath to meander into a stream towards the northern valley. In order to understand the time capsule that is this place, a contradiction must exist to create unexpected juxtaposition. Through contrast and difference such as colour, value, scale and material, the landscape can be intensified and its history can be seen more vividly.
Concept: ‘Khat (Line)’ is a spatial experience that’s intangible essence is suggested by the artist and formalized by the architect, to create a finite human environment within the infinite landscape of its surrounding nature. It combines our relationship to an ancient natural world and the 21st century human world via a minimal intrusion.
An extruded line in the sand, as a symmetrical white plinth, presents a strong contrast to the irregularity of nature. Inspired from but not influenced by the Nabataean tombs, its monumental existence creates a contradiction that also eliminates a redundant and unnecessary addition to the landscape. Its form is a formal yet inhabitable gesture that cuts through the landscape, suggesting that we draw a conceptual and physical line, not between past and future, nature and modernity, but instead between dichotomizing and coexisting. A white box floats over architecture that is not defined by the space it contains but by its envelope. Beneath it is an open space void of decoration, ornamentation, distractions and dialectics. Like tombs, ruins and religious icons, its formal appearance is flexible in its use, allowing for a free plan that opens up to the landscape, balancing the manmade with the natural world. Its pure form is a transitional gesture that aims to re-engage the time traveler back into the present, in order to stimulate their perception via contrasting experiences.