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Masdar Future City (LAVA Proposed) (Abu Dhabi)

Credits: ©2009 Architecture Daily/Ethel Baraona Pohl

Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) won a competition to design the urban centre of Masdar, a zero-carbon, zero-waste city to be built in the desert near Abu Dhabi. The centre will feature giant moveable sunshades based on sunflowers (above) that shade a public piazza, plus hotels, retail and leisure facilities. Masdar, which will cover 6 million square metres when complete, is based on the urban layout of ancient walled cities and aims to provide a blueprint for sustainable urban development, masterplanned by architects Foster & Partners. Giant umbrellas, with a design based on the principles of sunflowers, will provide moveable shade in the day, store heat, then close and release the heat at night in the plaza of a new eco-city in the United Arab Emirates. The ‘sunflower umbrellas’ are one aspect of the winning design by the international practice Laboratory for Visionary Architecture [LAVA] for the city centre for Masdar in the UAE – the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. The solar powered ‘sunflower’ umbrellas capture the sun’s rays during the day, fold at night releasing the stored heat, and open again the next day. They follow the projection of the sun to provide continuous shade during the day. Masdar is a planned city located 17 kilometres from Abu Dhabi. A government initiative, the city is being constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. The city centre includes a plaza, five-star hotel, long stay hotel, a convention centre and entertainment complex and retail facilities.


Masdar Future City

LAVA designed the Masdar City as the city of the future; positioned at the forefront of integrating sustainable technology into modern architectural design. Rome, Athens, Florence; most great historical cities have had the plaza, forum, or square at their epicentre – where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population evolved. ©2009 Ethel Baraona Pohl

Hence, our design proposal focuses on the delivery of three key issues:
1.Performance – to demonstrate the use and benefits of sustainable technology in a modern, dynamic, iconic architectural environment.
2.Activation – to activate or operate the sustainable technology in accordance with the functional needs of this environment, 24 hours a day, and 365 days of the year.
3.Interaction – to encourage and stimulate a social dynamic where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population of Masdar evolve. The “Oasis of the Future” is conceived as an open spatial experience, whereby all features; whether hotel, conference, shopping, or leisure, offer the highest quality of indoor and outdoor comfort and interaction.

As in the case of an oasis, the Plaza is the social epicentre of Masdar; opening 24-hour access to all public facilities. Interactive, heat sensitive technology activates low intensity lighting in response to pedestrian traffic and mobile phone usage. The Plaza is able to change into an outdoor cinema for international events and national celebrations. Buildings’ surrounding the Plaza form gorges, evoking mystical comparisons with the Grand Canyon and the entrance to Petra. The “Oasis of the Future” demonstrates sustainable technology in a user-friendly architectural environment – flexible use of space, outdoor and indoor comfort, and optimum performance. The user experience is the heart of the “Oasis of the Future”.

By analysing the potential pedestrian flows throughout the Plaza and surrounding facilities, the design seeks to accentuate this ‘loop’ of indoor and outdoor user-experiences This ‘loop’ marries the lowest possible energy expenditure to the highest levels of user comfort in correlation to pedestrian flows. The following environmental and engineering design concepts will be utilized to minimize energy consumption:
•Radiant surfaces
•Air movement that supplements natural wind patterns
•Evaporating cooling mist
•Thermal mass and PCM
•Slab cooling and Luna Panels
•Shading of external facades surrounding the Plaza

Our sustainable design and engineering philosophy balances the ‘vision of the future’ with ‘scientific fact and availability’. Our aim is to provide the Abu Dhabi Energy Company with the lowest possible carbon footprint, whilst maintaining the highest level of user experience within the practical viability of affordable architecture. Our engineering specialists have analysed each component of potential energy expenditure and investigated individual efficiencies in order to reduce the carbon footprint. Even the façade of the buildings surrounding the Plaza will incorporate long-life, loose-fit structural design to enable flexible future planning and reconfiguration opportunities. Switching and sensors will activate and deactivate features and functions in correlation with usage and pedestrian flow. All front and back of house functions within the Hotel and Convention Centre will capture sustainability of water, waste, materials, indoor and outdoor environmental quality In fact, our proposal strives to exceed those of the Masterplan and is, in addition, benchmarked against Estidama and LEED (Platinum). Adaptive cooling provides all facilities with extended usability during peak heat loads.

 Our ‘Petals from Heaven’ feature interactive umbrellas that open, provide shade, and capture energy during daylight hours; folding at night to release stored heat. Solar analysis provides insight into the tuning of facades in order to incorporate an ability to respond to varying sun angles and levels of solar intensity. The Oasis of the Future is a living, breathing habitat. The ability to control ambient temperature at all times of the day is the key to making the Plaza a compulsive destination. The gorges pull inhabitants into the loop. The ‘Petals from Heaven’ open and close; protect pedestrians from the sun; capture, store, and release heat; adjust the angle of shade based on the position of the sun. The heat sensitive lamps adjust the level of lighting to the proximity of pedestrians. The water features ebb and flow based on the intensity of ground temperatures. The promenades lure pedestrians into the shopping and leisure facilities. Similarly, the public are seduced into the Plaza during cooler night hours and cooler months of the year. Our 5 Star Hotel is organised efficiently around a ‘Central Canyon’ and is linked to the Extended Stay Facilities via a ‘gorge’ housing Retail premises. The Central Canyon is a day-lit space deep within the building, connecting the hotel’s restaurants and ballrooms to the guest amenities.

The hotel’s entrance and lobby, located at the base of the atrium, offers guests an immediate view out onto the Plaza in one direction and the green of the park in another. The western edge of the Plaza rises to create the Convention Centre forecourt and ascends as a continuous path into the Lobby area. Our design of the Convention Centre Lobby resembles an enormous, light-soaked cavern, providing an enclosure for the conference facilities with the Plaza framed in the background. The awe-inspiring ‘erosion-effect’ design of the façade that flows across this edge of the Plaza is complemented by water features and also houses the sub-podium PRT and Retail concessions. This spectacular conference facility, with its gigantic cavern atmosphere, will leave a lasting impression on all visitors. ‘Masdar Plaza, The Oasis of the Future’ will create an iconic venue within a truly visionary city. ‘Masdar Plaza, The Oasis of the Future’ incorporates the highest level of knowledge and expertise in science, technology, and construction methodology, globally. It is an intellectual balance between iconic architectural identity, cutting edge sustainable design and technology.

Additional artcile in dezeen Design Magazine 


LAVA (Laboratory for Visionary Architecture) (Australia)