Baa Atoll was classified as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in June 2011. This achievement placed Maldives in the category of world famous sites such as Komodo island in Indonesia, Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia and the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.
1)Tourism is a major economical resource for the Maldives, but why an economy destroys its own-self for the 500.000 inhabitants and almost One Million visitors per year with 10% annual increase.
2) Maldives will be one of the first lands to be submerged underwater due to global warming. The height of the island ranges between 2,5 m and 1,2m with a forecasted 50 cm rise in water level in the next 50 years
3) Resorts are ideal opportunities to implement sustainability, where ecological would mean economical
In the pre design phase, all of the above mentioned pre-conditions were integrated with the aim of conceiving a realistic solution. One that not only fulfils the client’s goal but also serves as a manifesto for sustainable resorts in one of the most intricate areas on the planet.
The architecture mirrors natural elements of the island whilst minimizing environmental impact from the lush green foliage (where no existing trees were removed), to the marine life that inhabit the waters around the coral island. This 14 acre island was transformed into a touristic village for 150 visitors with 70 villas and suites (41 on island and 29 overwater), 3 restaurants, arrival jetty, welcome building, wellness center, over water SPA, kids club and complementary buildings such as technical areas, storages, and workshops for 250 staff members with Back-of-House structures and MEP installations. The master plan includes 98 buildings with 25 alternating typologies and a unique integrated design.
Knowing that having a LEED certificate is impossible, due to the fact that all materials are imported and the out of grid energy system is supplied by diesel generators, the design follows binding rules that guarantees sustainability, from the reduction of fossil energy consumption, to the all inclusive plastic free strategy.
Minimising the resort’s impact on the area was a key part of the design brief, working closely with environmental experts to find solutions that would combat coastal erosions, calculate wave pressure on the shore and the rising water levels, better comprehend how to utilize winds, and how to adhere to the changes between dry and monsoon seasons that affect the island’s geometry and size.
All of the resort’s buildings were constructed with waterproof white cubes topped by organic shaped timber roofs that create a natural ventilation system through the double roof structure. This combination of material allows heat absorption and thermal mass to act as a coolant. The result, shows a 40% decrease in air condition usage, when compared with other resorts.
Contrasting the curved roof which mimic’s the local marine life jewels like turtles, whale sharks and mantas, the Back-of-House flat roofs are used for solar and photovoltaic panels as well as for hydroponic cultivation to minimize unjustified imports to supply the need of food on the island.
The shape of the arrival jetty and the kids club, have a clear analogy by mixing the white shell of a giant clam and the White or Pinocchio Whale. In both cases, a tensile structure supplied by ETFE fabric is stretched on top of a galvanized light white steel curved skeleton resistant to sea, wind and salt that creates the effect of white sails employed to minimize the heat of the sun and increase the Albedo effect. The shape is just an aerodynamic factor, however; it is appreciated by visitors due to the ability to instantly link it with marine life upon their arrival by seaplane. The aerial view of the master plan is an important factor in the perceptual approach.
We opted to use engineered and fast-growing treated wood from controlled forestation areas for decking where other resorts used rare and endangered teak. For this reason and due to the curved shape, the structure of the double roofing is formed by smaller beam pieces in glue lam timber. As for the other 2 public buildings, mechanical construction was used, prefabricated buildings were assembled on site to reduce waste, energy usage and transportation needed. The design strategy applied the “second life” concept for most materials possible for example using the piles which were left to form a fence.
The dive center, formed of refurbished shipping containers, were initially used for transportation and later as site offices, were covered with a cantilevered timber wood implementing the double roof and cross ventilation system.
The jetties skeleton are built with the use of a prefab concrete system that minimized construction time and footprint on the reef, with the least amount of columns possible, by using the piling. The jetty’s deck is not made of rare teak wood, but is made of tropical pine wood timber from New Zeeland’s fast reforestation plantations.
Natural materials were used even for the interiors like small timber, dead corals and calcium-based plasters, in addition to the use of innovative and durable materials. For example creating particular ceramic finishings for the floors, incorporating sustainable synthetic products for pools and bathrooms. All taps and faucet are without hazardous and chrome finishing, but in “more green” and eternal Stainless Steel AISI 316.
The resort opened in November 2018 and many visitors were attracted not only by the unique natural beauty of the island and its coral reef but by the unusual architectural features for Maldives, where a false localism and a non-existent vernacular matrix prevail within the typical resort design. A green directory is present, to stimulate the curiosity of the visitors with insights on how the resort was built. The intention is to explain the architectural expressiveness in order to stimulate tourism that is aware of environmental problems.
After his partnership with Piero Lissoni, at Lissoni Peia Associati, in 2006 Giampiero Peia founded Peia Associati studio with Marta Nasazzi. The international practice develops design in a wide spectrum of geographical and thematic areas, from urban planning to interior design and from large scale architectural planning to industrial product design. The studio received international awards for various projects like The Westin Resort in Maldives, Residential towers in Shanghai, the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe, the second life Coca Cola pavilion at Expo Milan and the Tallest Building in Doha. In 2017, Peia in collaboration with Robonica was awarded first prize at the Vertical Farm International Awards. Peia designed and executed “A Piece of Sky“ Sri Lankan pavilion at the XXII Triennale di Milano. The designs are fueled by constant research in the fields of progressive design, technology, innovative materials and smart systems working always in parallel with environmental aims.