A Lotus in the Desert – China's Xiangshawan Resort


    The Desert Lotus Hotel doesn’t seem like a particularly convenient place to vacation. Embedded in the rolling dunes of Inner Mongolia, the hotel is more than 800km west of Beijing, far from the coast or any major metropolitan centres. But it is close to one thing: Baotou, the Chinese city that mines more than half of the world’s rare earth minerals. The mines at Bayan Obo, outside of Baotou, produce an increasingly outsized portion of the metals used to make electronics – everything from TVs to your new gold iPhone. Driven in part by China’s demand for metals, a Mongolian boom has emerged, bringing with it projects like Desert Lotus. Nestled in the dunes beyond the busy factories of Baotou, the resort caters to Chinese tourists, offering [authentic] Mongolian performances and fare.

    Deserts and resorts aren’t a great pairing, environmentally speaking. But the Chinese firm behind the project – PLaT Architects – managed to solve some of the structural challenges with building on sand in interesting ways. Desert Lotus doesn’t have a traditional foundation, and no cement or water was used during construction. Rather, it rests on a flat metal base filled with sand, which keeps it stable like ballast in a boat. Inside its prefab frame, walls and ceilings are lined with a composite made from dune sand. Sail-like shading devices cut down on energy costs, and give the whole ziggurat-shaped complex a superficial hint of Arcostanti – the radical desert eco-community that put environmental architecture on the map in the 1970s.

    We’re likely to see plenty more developments like this over the next few decades, as worldwide demand for rare earth metals increases and the region continues to boom. Though since some environmental advocates report that the mines produce radioactive waste, maybe hold off on booking a ticket just yet.


    Desert Lotus Hotel under construction is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Desert Lotus Hotel under construction is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    The Desert Lotus Hotel, among the dunes of the Xiangshawan Desert, seen via Google Earth. The looped lines at left are train tracks for a small tourist ride. (Photo by DigitalGlobe/Google, Inc.)


    The Desert Lotus Hotel, among the dunes of the Xiangshawan Desert, seen via Google Earth. The looped lines at left are train tracks for a small tourist ride. (Photo by DigitalGlobe/Google, Inc.)




    Dancers perform yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers perform yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A general view of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A general view of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage after a Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage after a Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Tourists ride past the Desert Lotus Hotel under construction in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Tourists ride past the Desert Lotus Hotel under construction in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A dancer in traditional costumes attends the Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A dancer in traditional costumes attends the Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Toursits take bus past a toilet on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Toursits take bus past a toilet on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A toilet is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A toilet is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Toursits ride camels on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Toursits ride camels on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model performs in Mongolia costumes in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model performs in Mongolia costumes in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Toursits attend the Mongolian ritual ceremony near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Toursits attend the Mongolian ritual ceremony near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A woman rest beside a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A woman rest beside a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers perform yoga near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers perform yoga near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A sand frog jumps as a toursit standing behind in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A sand frog jumps as a toursit standing behind in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Two lillte boys play in a pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Two lillte boys play in a pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A toursit visits the Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A toursit visits the Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model in Mongolia costumes poses for photos in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model in Mongolia costumes poses for photos in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Models in Mongolia costumes prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Models in Mongolia costumes prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A toursit walks on the dunes near a power plant in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A toursit walks on the dunes near a power plant in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers prepare for performing yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers prepare for performing yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers perform yoga in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers perform yoga in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model in Mongolia costumes walks past the dancers in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model in Mongolia costumes walks past the dancers in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers in traditional costumes perform near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers in traditional costumes perform near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    Dancers perform as camels walking on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    Dancers perform as camels walking on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




    A model performs in Mongolia costumes near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


    A model performs in Mongolia costumes near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

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A Lotus in the Desert – China's Xiangshawan Resort


The Desert Lotus Hotel doesn’t seem like a particularly convenient place to vacation. Embedded in the rolling dunes of Inner Mongolia, the hotel is more than 800km west of Beijing, far from the coast or any major metropolitan centres. But it is close to one thing: Baotou, the Chinese city that mines more than half of the world’s rare earth minerals. The mines at Bayan Obo, outside of Baotou, produce an increasingly outsized portion of the metals used to make electronics – everything from TVs to your new gold iPhone. Driven in part by China’s demand for metals, a Mongolian boom has emerged, bringing with it projects like Desert Lotus. Nestled in the dunes beyond the busy factories of Baotou, the resort caters to Chinese tourists, offering [authentic] Mongolian performances and fare.

Deserts and resorts aren’t a great pairing, environmentally speaking. But the Chinese firm behind the project – PLaT Architects – managed to solve some of the structural challenges with building on sand in interesting ways. Desert Lotus doesn’t have a traditional foundation, and no cement or water was used during construction. Rather, it rests on a flat metal base filled with sand, which keeps it stable like ballast in a boat. Inside its prefab frame, walls and ceilings are lined with a composite made from dune sand. Sail-like shading devices cut down on energy costs, and give the whole ziggurat-shaped complex a superficial hint of Arcostanti – the radical desert eco-community that put environmental architecture on the map in the 1970s.

We’re likely to see plenty more developments like this over the next few decades, as worldwide demand for rare earth metals increases and the region continues to boom. Though since some environmental advocates report that the mines produce radioactive waste, maybe hold off on booking a ticket just yet.


Desert Lotus Hotel under construction is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Desert Lotus Hotel under construction is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




The Desert Lotus Hotel, among the dunes of the Xiangshawan Desert, seen via Google Earth. The looped lines at left are train tracks for a small tourist ride. (Photo by DigitalGlobe/Google, Inc.)


The Desert Lotus Hotel, among the dunes of the Xiangshawan Desert, seen via Google Earth. The looped lines at left are train tracks for a small tourist ride. (Photo by DigitalGlobe/Google, Inc.)




Dancers perform yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers perform yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A general view of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A general view of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage after a Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage after a Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Tourists ride past the Desert Lotus Hotel under construction in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Tourists ride past the Desert Lotus Hotel under construction in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A dancer in traditional costumes attends the Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A dancer in traditional costumes attends the Mongolian ritual ceremony in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Toursits take bus past a toilet on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Toursits take bus past a toilet on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A toilet is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A toilet is seen in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Toursits ride camels on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Toursits ride camels on a tour of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model performs in Mongolia costumes in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model performs in Mongolia costumes in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Toursits attend the Mongolian ritual ceremony near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Toursits attend the Mongolian ritual ceremony near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A woman rest beside a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A woman rest beside a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers perform yoga near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers perform yoga near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A sand frog jumps as a toursit standing behind in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A sand frog jumps as a toursit standing behind in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Two lillte boys play in a pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Two lillte boys play in a pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A toursit visits the Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A toursit visits the Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model in Mongolia costumes poses for photos in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model in Mongolia costumes poses for photos in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Models in Mongolia costumes prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Models in Mongolia costumes prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model in Mongolia costumes prepares backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Toursits play in a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A toursit walks on the dunes near a power plant in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A toursit walks on the dunes near a power plant in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 17, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers prepare for performing yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers prepare for performing yoga on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers perform yoga in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers perform yoga in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model in Mongolia costumes walks past the dancers in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model in Mongolia costumes walks past the dancers in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers in traditional costumes perform near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers in traditional costumes perform near Desert Lotus Hotel in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 19, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers prepare backstage in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 20, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




Dancers perform as camels walking on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


Dancers perform as camels walking on the dunes of Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 21, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)




A model performs in Mongolia costumes near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. Xiangshawan is China's famous tourist resort in the desert. It is located along the middle section of Kubuqi Desert on the south tip of Dalate League under Ordos City. Sliding down from the 110-metre-high, 45-degree sand hill, running a course of 200 metres, the sands produce the sound of automobile engines, a natural phenomenon that nobody can explain. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)


A model performs in Mongolia costumes near a swimming pool in Xiangshawan Desert, also called Sounding Sand Desert on July 18, 2013 in Ordos of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

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