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Alessio Belloni, a Milanese architect with firm based in Sharjah tells us about the new Khorfakkan plan inspired by Cinque Terre

By Virginia Mammoli

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Published: Tue 26 Apr 2022, 9:36 AM

Exporting the Made-in-Italy style and attitude all over the world. That is what architect Alessio Belloni has been doing for 40 years. After taking his degree at the Polytechnic Uni-versity of Milan, Alessio Belloni started his own practice, firstly in Milan, where he designed buildings constructed all over Europe but also in China and the United States, and then in the Emirate of Sharjah. Here he worked on a number of plans for the Emirates, which made his name known to all in the Arab world, in particular, in the luxury industry. We met with him on the “eve” of his new work in Khorfakkan, an extremely ambitious intervention, across a 500,000-square -meter area , inspired by the Cinque Terre.

When was your first plan in the Emirates constructed?

I arrived in the Emirates about 25 years ago to work on the interior design of the Royal Palace of Sharjah. A pre-existing architecture, but which required massive intervention on the indoor space. I personally took care of the men’s area, including the basement with swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. A 15,000-square-meter area, surrounded by a one million-square-meter desert, to which it is connected through an English lawn featuring the sinuous crest line of the dunes, with spectacular fountains and large water basins.

What does designing in the United Arab Emirates involve?

It involves great competition and creativity. Competition because we are talking about a place where “the best” has already been achieved, so you have to constantly challenge yourself by raising the bar higher and higher. A very hard task. That’s where creativity comes into play.

What do the Emiratis enjoy the most about Italian culture?

Our lifestyle, which was once represented by the classic style, whereas the new generations have a more modern and contemporary approach.

How did you develop the idea of bringing a ‘piece of the Cinque Terre’ to Khorfakkan?

After a trip to Liguria, the customers were struck by its charm and believed that their “mountains” would fit in with a typical Ligurian town. On my advice, we added the sea element, moving closer to the idea of seaside towns such as Portofi no and Riomaggiore.

Not a replica, but a concept. What does this plan bring to Khorfakkan?

This plan brings a piece of Italy to the Emirates, not only from the architectural point of view, but also in terms of fashion, food and, generally speaking, mood of these loca-tions, highly regarded in the Emirates as well as all over the world.

How will the plan be developed?

Around two main streets, one running in the mountain direction and the other in the sea direction. Two building wings branch off from a central boulevard, following the mountain’s course. Shops and restaurants beneath the buildings. The beach is for the exclusive use of two luxury hotels.

When will you break ground?

Hopefully early next year.

Dubai is a unique destination for contemporary architecture lovers. What is your top must-see list?

I recommend a tour of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and The Dubai Mall, where one finds all the most exclusive brands. Then the Dubai Marina and Palm Island area, and the Jumeirah Al Qasr Hotel with its waterways and the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Outside of Dubai, in the nearby Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Louvre, two very different but both highly spectacular buildings.

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