Heritage Machine

Mega Dunes Eco Lodges


AUTHORS: Giuseppe Ricupero, Egidio Cutillo, Stefania Schirò, Enrico Capanni
PLACE: Rub Al Khali Desert, United Arab Emirates
YEAR: 2020
STATUS: Unbuilt
INSTAGRAM [1]: @egidiocutillo
INSTAGRAM [2]: @stefiefi_


Every desert carries within it the traces of the landscape that preceded the aridity: clearly engraved valleys, gorges and dunes are the legacy of wetter periods, the result of the continuous reshaping of the sands. These geographies deflected and corroded by the wind and by men, architects of sediments, are a material reality this expands on a global scale, making itself a legacy and a challenge for future habitability.

Designing in the desert may mean operating without context, but it is precisely in its transitory traces that new directions for the future of these areas must be sought. Context is something deeper than mere proximity, it is an increase in responsibility and a search for clues where paradoxically there are none. So we go back to looking at the footprints of the oryxes, the directions of the stars, the passage of the chariots, the action of the wind and our desire for memories, considering them as the matrix and system of the design exercise: the attempt to inhabit the desert through the construction of new polarities, new compasses (landmarks), other legacies.

Sand Ruins. Desert and history correspond in our discourse, so the sand, interpreted as an economic, energetic and cultural resource, is the constitutive material of a series of archaeologies that are disseminated in the context to direct the passage and to welcome life. Starting from the shapeless matter, more certain configurations are printed in 3D configurations that define the habitable environments and that, because of the exposure to the action of atmospheric agents and for the granulometric composition of the material (i.e.: WASP 3D printing; Finite Material), will deteriorate to become sand again. Nevertheless, these spaces are defined by very thick walls and great thermal inertia, ensuring protection and shielding, available to accommodate human and non-human life.

Living Pods. The archaeologies are complementary to more controlled, mobile and technically sophisticated environments that respond to another temporality and serve to ensure habitability. Living Pods translate resources and climatic conditions into comfort and constitute the spatial and energy infrastructure of the project. They consist of a series of autonomous cells equipped with a coverage that are aggregated to form a roof for the newly built archaeological sites. Once their stay is over, they can be disassembled and migrated to a new archaeology, regardless of the newly abandoned cradle which is instead left to its natural decay.

Common Hub. To conceive the desert a humid interval is necessary an artificial oasis, essential to the refreshment and development of the transient community that will attend the shelters. At the scale of the desert there is a monumental cover that defines a large collective shaded area under which to prototype new sand archaeology. Here are concentrated common services, reversible and regenerable, which could cyclically disappear leaving only a new trace in the context, available to accommodate other stories.


Giuseppe Ricupero is actually working between design and theory, taking part into various interdisciplinary projects with the aim to integrate architecture and visual and performative arts. Since 2016 he is collaborating with the artist Giorgio Andreotta Calò for whom he designed the installation untitled (the end of the world) for the 2017 Italian Pavilion, 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale. For the same artist, he is editing the book Gloria (Humboldt Books, in press). He has also started a collaboration with the artist Nuvola Ravera, curating her latest works in different Italian institutions, including Soapopera (Ex Lanificio Made in cloister Foundation, Naples; Museo G. Fattori, Livorno).

Egidio Cutillo works between design and theory and his activity includes researchs, projects, symposia, curatorship and publishing. He collaborated in the design and curatorial team of archt. Sara Marini for the Italian Pavilion 2020 proposal at 17th International Architecture Exhibition “How Will We Live Together”, Venice Biennale. He has exhibited a project on the Pyeonghwa Market in Seoul at “2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism”. He has edited with Sara Marini the books Macchine sceniche. La dimensione teatrale dell’architettura e alcune mise-en-scène (Nicomp L.E., 2019) and Cartografie dell’oscurità. Architetture e psicogeografie veneziane (Nicomp L.E., 2018).

Stefania Schirò collaborated in the design team of Philippe Rahm architectes on the winning project Agenti Climatici in the Farini Competition, Milan; with the same practice, she collaborated in the design exhibition “A Climate-based Urbanism: the example of Central Park, Taichung Taiwan” at Biennale d’architecture et de paysage 2019, Versailles. She won the competition Projet scénographie 2019 – La Colline Théâtre National, Paris, exhibiting the project at the same theatre and at Prague Quadriennial 2019.

Enrico Capanni works during his studies. In 2020 he starts a collaboration with archt. Pietro Franceschini with whom is developing several theoretical and physical interior projects. He collaborated with Leandro Martinelli between 2016 and 2019 in many private house projects. In the summer of 2019, he collaborated with Martinelli Luce SPA to visualise their first Catalogue. He participated in many architecture competitions, among others: May 2020 “Young Architects Competition – Hill of the Arts” with Pietro Franceschini (Gold Mention); June 2019 “Reuse Italy – Reuse the Castle competition” (Honourable Mention); June 2019 “Rethinking Competition – Niagara Falls Pavilion” (Gold Mention).

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