Kudadoo: The most sustainable resort in the Maldives?

Kudadoo: The most sustainable resort in the Maldives?

Kudadoo: The most sustainable resort in the Maldives?

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(CNN) — Many architects would kill to have a blank sheet of paper on which to create their dream project.

But when award-winning architect Yuji Yamazaki agreed to design Kudadoo Maldives Private Island, which opened in 2018 and consists of just 15 overwater residences, he found himself thinking about how his building could showcase the island—and not the other way around.

His approach was to build in a way that highlights the island’s natural beauty while using as few natural resources as possible.

“The real concept is how we can showcase this existing beautiful nature, which means pristine white beach and crystal clear water,” explains Yamazaki. “Those are the elements we wanted to preserve.”

First on the priority list: clean energy.

While solar energy is becoming more common in the Maldives, Yamazaki did not like how so many hotels and resorts tried to hide the panels behind buildings as if they were something shameful or ugly.

Instead, he and his team designed their own panels and incorporated them into the resort’s overall aesthetic. Today, Kudadoo remains the only fully solar-powered private island in the country.

“We decided to just design a large public building with a solar roof,” says Yamazaki. “In terms of calculating the power, there was enough scale uptake to cover or supply electricity across the entire island.”

An aerial view of Kudadoo Resort.

An aerial view of Kudadoo Resort.

Kudadoo Maldives Private Island

In addition to creating something beautiful and useful, Yamazaki had another goal for his solar panels – education.

“When you go to the Maldives, you usually arrive by seaplane or boat, so the first impression of the resort is always a roof or a building from afar,” he explains. “Instead of hiding it, we showed that we made it a main character on the island so people (see it when they) come.”

That juxtaposition is exactly what Yamazaki wanted to achieve. Travelers to the Maldives may come for luxury and beautiful surroundings, but the architect hopes they will also leave with a sense of responsibility to take care of the islands.

In his view, sustainability is not an add-on that you hide behind a building out of sight. Instead, it’s a beautiful design element placed in the most obvious position possible.

A sinking nation

The low-lying islands of the Maldives are in serious danger due to climate change.

According to forecasts by NASA in coordination with the United States Geographical Survey, the entire country may be completely underwater by the year 2050.

He said: “Our islands are slowly being inundated by the sea, one by one. If we do not reverse this trend, the Maldives will cease to exist by the end of this century.”

One of Kudadoo's 15 villas.

One of Kudadoo’s 15 villas.

Kudadoo Maldives Private Island

Yamazaki also sounds the alarm.

“The concern is really becoming more visible and loud. The sea is rising much faster than the scientists predicted. The people of the Maldives are very worried. We have gone to the new resorts and made sure that a lot of studies have been done on erosion and coastline protection.”

But the architect tries to be even more proactive in his approach.

“As architects, we are there to build a new environment,” he says. “We make sure we showcase what’s going on under the water, not just sea level rise, but what’s happening with the sea temperature, why the coral is dying or why the fish migration is different this year…we also like to bring people’s attention to that as well. “

A stretch of the famous white sand at Kudadoo.

A stretch of the famous white sand at Kudadoo.

Kudadoo Maldives Private Island

As more and more travelers learn about sustainability and specifically seek out properties that rely on natural fuels and power sources, the architect believes brands and destinations will follow suit.

“I think a lot of developers, architects, investors … are becoming more aware of why people come here – beyond the usual five-star hotel accommodation. What are the best points? The water, the weather, the breeze, the view. I think those are the elements that are important. In instead of building the fun big swimming pool and bar lounge, I think a lot of investors not only do that, but also try to allocate some of the profits to a local community to clean up the environment.”

Private plunge pools, world-class wine lists and at the same time doing something good for the environment? Now that sounds like luxury.

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