The ambition of the Abu Dhabi Capital Garden competition is to conceive a powerful urban project, on a plot allowing more than 2 000 000 m² of building surface. In order to satisfy the city’s ambitions, the urban layout has to propose a rich alchemy of buildings, public spaces, plain and voids: essential balance to any urbanism.
Two essential and interdependent stakes oriented our project :
1/ The proposal had to offer an exceptional, exclusive and unique project capable of attracting tourists, residents and investors.
2/ The urban and architectural answer had to be of an irreproachable quality in its everyday use, accomplished through a programmatic mix and a smart public space treatment suitable for the Abu Dhabi extreme climate.
To give the most enlightened answer to the great opportunity offered to Abu Dhabi to distinguish itself from its economic and touristic competitors -such as Dubai or Doha- with this competition, we decided to propose an alternative to the frenetic race to the most eccentric and highest tower the Emirates started a few years ago, as analyzed in “The Gulf” exhibition at the Venice Biennial (AMO, Rem Koolhaas). We criticize this race regarding the urban and architectural quality it generates and especially the precariousness of every new grandiose gesture, even if it fascinates by its unique innovation level.
The best illustration of the uncertainty in this race is the Burj Dubai project and the best kept secret about its final height, promoters being afraid to be out of date even before delivering the building.
The option we propose is not therefore classical. On the contrary, we developed an other form of modernity in the shape of an hybrid structure : at the same time architecture, urbanism and landscape.
This alternative approach would give Capital Garden the opportunity to become the ultimate destination and an essential place in the Emirates and in the world : the Urban Mashrabiya.
URBAN ASPECT :
As a growing city, Abu Dhabi doesn’t have a particular urban grid to refer to, so we set up a urban pattern able to structure the entire site. We started from the tabula rasa (demolishing the existing buildings on the eastern part of the site and the Mosque) in order to offer a clear and strong image to the area, a cultural and economic heart in echo to the Saadiyat Island : a city centre with a specific urban
pattern that ones will recognize as well as Barcelona, Tokyo, Manhattan or Paris urban patterns.
The contemporary urban proposal is however taking over the ancestral principle of arab urbanism and its self shadow streets, matching the climate and the public space use.
Indeed, the same notion has been used by Alison & Peter Smithson in their proposal for the Congress Center mat building in Abu Dhabi in 1970.
The main constructive element of the urban pattern is taken from the ancient arab culture : the mashrabiya, in which the art of geometry, plain and void is reaching perfection.
The project is based on the design of an over-scaled mashrabiya giving to the plain parts livable dimensions and generous proportions to the voids to provide natural light and ventilation.
The project height is 120 meters (35 stories) overlooking by 20 meters its surrounding. This height offers amazing views and a generous roof-garden without giving too much shadows to its environment.
The 9 000 parking bays required for the building activity are spread on two levels under the project site. The building is segmented in 5 layers of 7 stories. Each layer is in plan an homothetic transformation of the same mashrabiya.
The difference in scale for each layer enables to manage the voids dimensions to give optimum natural light everywhere in the building. Each layer is stacked on top of one other and the whole building is organized around three main cores collecting the major public circulations, linking the city’s ground level to the 35 stories of the building and to the roof-top garden, essential to Central Garden District.
ARCHITECTURAL AND LANDSCAPE DESIGN ASPECT :
The proposal is a programmatic mixture running through all the stories of the building in order to assure ubiquity and dynamism to the public space via a users and uses miscellany.
The 1 800 000 m2 program is dispatched as :
- 200 000 m2 luxury hotel
- 200 000 m2 exclusive housing
- 500 000 m2 offices
- 490 000 m2 cultural equipments
- 170 000 m2 leisure and entertainment equipments
- 200 000 m2 luxury shopping
In between theses entities, the generous landscaped voids act like lungs for the building. These 325 000 m2 areas work as outside extensions to the programs, modulating their natural light and ventilation. The 20 voids developed on 7 stories are planted with palm trees, reflecting the image of Abu Dhabi, holding already 20% of the world’s palm grove.
These green oasis will be like public parks, peaceful breaths in the complex, air conditioned and free of any structural elements, their structure being held on the facade, designed in an arabic geometry and made out of high performance concrete.
Each of the 20 oasis will host water pounds and artificial rivers cooling down the entire building temperature ; visitors and users of the building will appreciate a pleasant rest in a luxuriant park even if there is a sand storm outside. Creating these green gaps breaks the repetition of the mashrabiya plan, giving a dynamic to every facade of the building. In the same vision, we propose to use a different facade treatment for each programmatic entity, giving a superior dynamic to the urban mashrabiya. In this aim each programmatic entity could be designed by different architects in order to identify the library from the aquatic park, or the opera.
Finally, the roof-top, entirely planted, is overlooking the entire city giving a generous outside public space, equivalent to the actual Capital Garden, from there, people will from now on stare at the sunset on the city and the sea.