Architects Lina Ghotmeh and Asif Khan appointed for two major museums in AlUla, Saudi Arabia
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) announces Lina Ghotmeh and Asif Khan as architects for two upcoming museums in its constellation of cultural assets. Ghotmeh will design the contemporary art museum and Khan will design the museum of the Incense Road. Both museums are situated in AlUla, a destination in northwest Arabia with 7,000 years of continuous human history.
Khan, who was awarded an MBE for his services to architecture and is currently working on the renewal of the Barbican Centre and the new London Museum, is known for his radical approach to architecture, which merges history with the future, grounding projects in material experimentation and social context.
Award winning Ghotmeh, who is designing the 2023 Serpentine Pavilion, creates work that sits at the intersection of art, architecture and design. Her practice is developed through a process of thorough historical research, emerging in complete symbiosis with nature as exquisite interventions that enliven memories and the senses.
The architects for the two museums were selected through a global competition. The jury, consisting of experts in architecture, landscape, and museology, along with a technical panel, was led by Dr. Khaled Azzam, the architect behind AlUla’s Journey Through Time Masterplan.
We are excited to announce the appointed architects to these two significant museums – the first of 15 cultural assets being developed as part of AlUla’s Journey Through Time Masterplan. AlUla is a spectacular landscape of discovery, where heritage, works of nature and humankind combine to reveal a long and intimate relationship between people and their environment. This Masterplan will guide the reinvigoration of AlUla establishing a new cultural legacy including the implementation of a circular economy expected to create 38,000 new jobs. – Dr Khaled Azzam – Architect, Journey Through Time Masterplan, Royal Commission for AlUla
About the Architects
Based in Paris, Lina Ghotmeh is a renowned architect who leads her multidisciplinary practice, Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture. Her exceptional works embody a harmonious connection with the environment, evoking emotions and memories. Ghotmeh’s impressive portfolio includes notable projects such as the Ateliers Hermès, the first low carbon and energy-positive building in France, the Stone Garden tower and gallery spaces in Beirut (winner of the Dezeen Architecture of the Year 2021 Prise), and the Estonian National Museum (recipient of the Grand Prix Afex 2016). Her accolades include prestigious awards like the Schelling Prize 2020 and the Tamayouz “Woman of Outstanding Achievement” 2020. Ghotmeh’s works have been exhibited worldwide, including at renowned venues like the Venice Architecture Biennale, MAXXI in Rome, and Cooper Hewitt in New York. She is also actively involved in academia, having held positions such as the Louis I Khan professor at Yale and the Gehry Chair at the University of Toronto.
“The architecture of the contemporary art museum in AlUla immerses visitors in a creative journey from the desert expanse to the lush cultural oasis of AlUla, interweaving the natural environment, agriculture, and art to reveal the heart of contemporary culture. Through a series of garden pavilions, the museum presents a constant interplay between art and nature, capturing the essence of this unique place. The galleries offer surprising and anchored perspectives on the many facets of AlUla, from the microclimates of the oasis to the expanse of the desert, evoking a deep sense of attachment to the land and its heritage.” . – Lina Ghotmeh, architect, contemporary art museum in AlUla
AlUla resonated with me deeply as did the local community members I met. The design takes the form of a public space, not a museum within walls, situated in AlJadidah village with galleries and spaces for sensory experiences and learning. The mountains are a constant background, whose sand dunes reach down to greet the edges of the museum, while stepped terraces of gardens act as a new interface between the village and the oasis. I am excited about how the museum of the Incense Road can be brought into the collective memory of the world, and become a transformative asset for the local community. – Asif Khan, architect, museum of the Incense Road
Establishing his London-based practice in 2007, Asif Khan is an architect known for his versatile designs encompassing buildings, landscapes, installations, exhibitions, and objects. His creative focus lies in crafting sensory experiences, fostering cultural exchange, and merging historical elements with futuristic visions. Khan is presently engaged in several prominent projects, including the renewal of the Barbican Art Centre, the forthcoming London Museum (scheduled to open in 2026), and the transformation of Liverpool Canning Dock waterfront—a site significant to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Notable achievements include his public realm design spanning 6.5km at Dubai Expo 2020, featuring carbon-fibre Entry Portals honoured with the Dezeen public award in 2021 and nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Khan has been recognized with accolades such as the Grand Prix for Innovation (Cannes 2014) and Architect of the Year (German Design Council 2017). His works have been exhibited at prestigious venues worldwide, including the Royal Academy of Arts, V&A, Milan Salone, Milan Triennale, Gwangju Design Biennale, Design Museum London, London Design Week, Tokyo Design Week, and currently at MAAT Lisbon. Khan’s passion for education led him to teach at the Royal College of Art and Musashino Art University in Tokyo. In 2017, he was honoured with an MBE for Services to Architecture and presently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Design Museum in London.