RAK Gateway Project by Snøhetta



Here are some new images of a hotel, conference and exhibition complex by Norwegian architects Snøhetta, in the emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.


Construction set to begin on the Ras Al-Khaimah Gateway Project later this year. More images and information in our previous story.


The following is from Snøhetta:


Snøhetta has been commissioned by the Ras Al Khaimah investment Authority and RAKEEN to undertake the architectural design for the Gateway project in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. Situated in the desert 150 km to the east of Dubai this landmark project will mark the gateway to the emirate and form the entrance to the new planned capital city of Ras Al Khaimah.


The urban master plan for the city is currently being under taken by the Netherlands based architectural practice OMA. The Gateway project is situated at the entrance to the city and will form a landmark for the city entrance.


The architectural expression for our proposal is inspired by the surrounding desert and mountain landscape. This concept provides for an infinite variety of naturally shaded, intimate and protected spaces, around which the multiple uses associated with the development are woven. The undulating architectural landscape is resolved in a dramatic landmark tower marking the main gateway plaza. This 200 m high tower will be the setting for a 5 star plus hotel affording panoramic views across the emirate, to the gulf and mountains beyond.

The programme calls for a mixed-use development comprising a conference centre, exhibition centre, hotels and retail space. In total it is expected to be 270 000m2 of build area. In addition there will be substantial areas of associated garden and landscape. Externally the building will be clad in ceramic panels, this will be developed together with Ras Al Khaimah ceramics, one of the world leading producers of ceramic products.

Posted on Tuesday August 12th 2008 at 12:35 am by Rob Ong. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • bald skull

    wow, really stunning. but it seems kinda odd just dropped onto the sand like that. no?

  • tman

    so awesome- great idea and really compelling spatially. suck it zaha

  • atomant

    hmm, ceramic panels eh..guess it gives good insulation. But would be much much much better if they had photovoltaic panels on them instead. Lot’s of free energy being wasted here.

  • bella

    super nice renders, no doubt about that. but it still strikes me as an UFO that has just landed in the sand..

  • brad

    for some reason, this reminds me of a cross between a tape gun and a curling iron…
    that view with the desert to the left just seems utterly silly. excellent urban planning strategy.

  • Mario

    Fuksas, zaha……..????

    snøhetta used to have original concepts, but it seems they just ended up joining the zaha movement……….lets do whatever, and then lets melt…….

  • One

    Shows new dimension of the middle east architecture. Because it is so huge, it is more about colony/environment than being a piece of architecture.

    So how doest his work in terms realisaton. Is architect liable/responsible for contracting the desig or the architect remain as a designer and the contractor gets all responsibility/powet to execute thisenvironment?

    Very curious…

  • GorJ

    In my honest opinion, this is something to be learned from. This is one of the first buildings In recent times, that truly captures the essence of vernacular and Islamic architecture in a modern building, in the middle east.
    Ras Al Khaimah may not be the richest in architecture, being an emirate consisting of beduins, derived primarily from Iran and Oman. But nevertheless they have used their necessity of the architectural forms, to their advantages.
    The watchtower, the lush green gardens with their date-palms, the courtyardhouse and the minimal expressions of the exteriors, leaving it to the interior of a house/building to define its use and its splendor.
    And to communicate this into modern day society and still keep the soul of the place, is not easy.
    Snohetta have done this, placing the building carefully on the sand, like a beduin puts his rug on the ground, creating secure intimate lush gardens inside the building, like an oasis or a private courtyard. The highrise tower, can easily be linked to the old watchtower, creating the communication between strangers and locals.
    Building with ceramic connects to the historical way of using clay as building-material, and at the same time takes advantage of one of the biggest exports of Ras Al Khaimah today, ceramic tiles.
    And if you look at the project on snohettas site, they are solving a complex pattern from simple geometry.
    This is good architecture…

  • It is like from Sci-fi

  • looks like an Alien spacecraft

  • Azeem

    Have seen this before on Pushpullbar.com !!. Excellent design, but many questions need to be answered!!


    We sould repay the oil and gas crises, Arab rise high and higher!!
    anyway, beautiful nordisk continiuos surfaces concept.
    Now a days ,we can find such “not a brand new” forms like this in Emirates.
    Seems that they are spending spree for out of dated concepts.!

  • edward

    What would Corbu have done…

  • Rockstar

    Looks like a bad rip off from Future Systems…again!

  • aless

    bore is bore

  • Allen

    Please i would like to see more detailed work on the hotel at the united Amirates,things like the floor plans,elevetion and section

  • Sc hu yl er

    Strange how it looks like it just landed there. Don’t really see how the site influenced the design, at least not in any half interesting ways…

  • urbanizing

    “The architectural expression for our proposal is inspired by the surrounding desert and mountain landscape. ”

    thats a big joke as always with these developments from zaha, oma, gerry or whoever…its just another object – and i cant stand these blobs anymore, really. Why is there no solid simple architecture anymore…

  • Ramiro

    agree, it’s just another meaningless object, trophy, phallus…whatever you want to call it. It all looks the same…just like pop music sounds the same…just the latest in a string of “trendy” designs being mass produced by the “Britney’s and Miley’s” of the architecture world.

  • yimyim

    this is simply bad. we all enjoyed the Stockholm comp entry but this is just formalist garbage. no context, no xympathy, sorry but no architecture!

  • One

    Just Imagine, you reach this building on camel, look into the patio being moist and green. The building is about 1 km long, it is more like a metal shield protecting soft environment in the tough place.

    This project is fantastic. Full of imagination. There is nothing which boder me of beig zaha or oma… nothing. I think it can be a beautiful gate to pass by, great manifesto to the surroundig Non Context environment, sand… sand and sand….

    I just hoop that architect will have achieve and materialise his/her ambition in reality. Hope that the building will NOT get shorter, hopethat the building will be realised as it is rendered… Donno about the way it is working down there…

  • sam


  • As much as I love Snøhetta you can’t help avoid the Zaha comparisons, do we all want to live in an 80’s space stations ?

  • scruces

    Anyone criticizing this is probably confined to a palette of straight lines and edges, curvilinear work requires a different skill set – those not in that group have probably tried, failed miserably and hence now shun it.

    Boring? The boxes that dot our landscapes are boring, thank god there are more of these ‘trophy’ projects lacking in context and substance…otherwise we’d be left with more of the baser and mundane works that purportedly claim to have the same level of contextual relevance when in all actuality the poetics behind the aesthetic justification of most any project seems to fall way too short from ever coming close to that which is interpretable from it’s physical manifestation. It’s all hog wash really, just plain human excrement that we marvel over because of our narcissistic nature. ;)

    I’m nonetheless impressed.

  • curtis

    The courtyard image is the most unsettling. With such a taught skin and sensuous forms, I’m surprised that the pool space is so bad. The exterior walkways recall a 60’s California walk-up hotel, Snohetta has abandoned the roof-as-inclined walk plane expression that activated the Norwegian Opera House, and there is no effort to provide a blended shade-scape.
    Snohetta – Norway cold, UAE hot.

  • nomad

    why do you think these ‘curvilinear’ building appeal to people? Maybe because they do not dot every block in every city in every country. To say boxes are boring is rubbish, we have become accustomed sadly to seeing form. If all theses ‘straight lined’ buildings became space stations. I am sure that everyone would crave for a straight building as it would be something different. We shall see over time if these buildings become ‘boring’ just as the box landscapes you talk about. Its one thing for architecture to wow you for a second, its another thing if that work can wow you for ever. We shall see if these pieces become like masturbation, fun for the time being but loses its fun after repeated use.

  • scruces

    I agree with you too monsieur NOMAD…once they’ve become pervasive they too will lose their appeal, but economics will likely always assure the ubiquity of our beloved box, the majority of us live in articulated cubes (rectangular volumes), regardless of the form the shell may take, it’s the most practical for us now. Boxes can be interesting too, there are many great examples, but sadly the majority are not, just look out your window, it’s blah.

  • cyph

    love the shape i would rather live in a world where the buildings were more organic like this than all boxy and stiff and cold. this design direction is more intuitive and pleasing to my eye. i think it does contrast well with the boxy city in the background though very nicely indeed.

  • Ali

    i think its hot- although im not a big fan of their work in general.

  • b+b


  • nomad

    scruces valid points and I agree whole heartedly. My only fear is that some of these buildings going up will be seductive imagery but once inside have no relation to the building and it was just a sexy shell. Regardless of it being a ‘box’, ‘blob’, or something so new we dont even know about. On a side note I wonder if Venturi is planning to write a book entitled Learning from the U.A.E

  • elalak

    The PBS show Wide Angle had an episode dedicated to the process of designing this building. The episode was called Sand Castle.


  • yimyim

    they should spend their money on hiring a decent designer instead of flashy rendering! lol :-P

  • snoarc

    the link for the website is

    snoarc. no



  • reminds me of the cobra conceptual project except more developed into a working piece of architecture. looks like paradise, but in actuality it’s located directly outside of a city border! would be a great getaway place

  • d

    totally love it!

  • So crazy to like this hotel!
    Till the ending day of world, i hope i can have a chance to experience here!

  • tman

    I’m sorry everyone, I need to correct my mistake, I didn’t actually get to see the interiors before I commented… foolish of me…

  • The buildings are designed like waves.seen from distance,you will feel like travelling on the sea.