Kudadoo: The most sustainable resort in the Maldives?

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

But when award-winning architect Yuji Yamazaki agreed to design the private island of Kudadoo Maldives, which opened in 2018 and consists of just 15 overwater residences, he found himself pondering how his building could show the island – and not the other way around.

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

“The real concept is how we can enhance this existing beautiful nature, i.e. pristine white beach and crystal clear water,” says Yamazaki. “These are the elements that we wanted to preserve.”

First on the priority list: clean energy.

While solar power is becoming more common in the Maldives, Yamazaki didn’t 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 signs and incorporated them into the station’s overall aesthetic. Today, Kudadoo remains the country’s only completely solar-powered private island.

“We decided to design a single large public building with the solar roof,” says Yamazaki. “In terms of power calculations, that was enough scale images to cover or power the entire island.”

An aerial view of the Kudadoo Resort.

Kudadoo Private Island Maldives

Besides creating something beautiful and useful, Yamazaki had another goal in mind 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 rooftop or a building from afar,” he explains. “Instead of hiding him, we showed that we made him a main character on the island for people to (see him when they) arrive.”

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

According to him, 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 nation in peril

The low islands of the Maldives are seriously threatened by climate change.

According to predictions by NASA in coordination with the United States Geographical Survey, the entire country could be entirely underwater by 2050.

He said: “Our islands are slowly being flooded by the sea, one by one. If we don’t 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 Private Island Maldives

Yamazaki is also sounding the alarm.

“The concern is really becoming more visible and stronger. The sea is rising much faster than scientists predicted. The people of the Maldives are very worried. We have walked on the new resorts and we are making sure that there is a lot of studies made on erosion and coastal protection.”

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

“As an architect, we are here to build a new environment,” he says. “We make sure to show what’s happening underwater, not just sea level rise, but also what’s happening to sea temperature, why coral is dying or why fish migration is different this year…we also like to bring people’s attention to that too.”

A stretch of that famous white sand in Kudadoo.

A stretch of that famous white sand in Kudadoo.

Kudadoo Private Island Maldives

As more travelers become familiar with sustainability and specifically seek properties that rely on natural fuels and energy sources, the architect believes brands and destinations will follow.

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

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

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