We do not believe in designing interactions, instead we need to design the contexts that foster interactions. This tower is designed to foster interactions. In a learning environment, the most stimulating conversations do not happen in classrooms or at desks, but rather through informal interactions on campus, in open spaces, in hallways & other horizontal spaces. In a school environment, essential interactions are creativity, collaboration & learning. It is only at the intersection of such interactions that innovation emerges. Working with the formal requirement of being ‘a skyscraper’, and to preserve the horizontal dynamics that foster the informal most fruitful interactions, this University skyscraper has been conceived as a continuous ‘horizontal’ space. A campus, wrapped around an atrium to create a skyscraper, not by stacking floors, by rather by spiralling one large ramp and creating a continuous floor, that can easily be walked up and down, much like you would walk around campus.
More information about this project Concept & Program | Architectural Discourse | Urban Planning | Structural System | Materials | Sustainable Practices | Building Facts
Concept & Program
The typical horizontal layouts of universities create the spontaneous, out-of-class interaction opportunities vital to learning experience. To preserve the social exchange which we believe is paramount, the tower although vertical is designed as an uninterrupted surface offering a continuous ‘horizontal’ circulation, from bottom to top. The resulting spiral ramp is not only a circulation space, it is an inhabited space housing cafes, lounges, exhibition spaces, open plan working areas…etc. Interaction does not only happen on the spiraling ramp but also in the atrium created at its hearts. This central ‘void’ in is the spine of the tower, its central source of knowledge & a space for question, reflection & learning. Being in that void, on one of the escalators inhabiting it, one gents some distance to reflect & experience a visual, more contemplative interaction with the space.
To foster interactions, the tower although vertical is designed as a continuous uninterrupted surface from bottom to top; this offering an optimized ‘horizontal’ circulation & triggering infinite interaction opportunities.
The atrium created by the spiraling continuous ramp, is inhabited with escalators. The atrium is a space for reflection & learning. Looking down the atrium, the escalators create a traditional Arabic pattern.
Inspired from Arabic calligraphy, the proportions of the tower obey the 6:1 ratio of a Naski ‘Alif’; the letter A in Arabic. Naski is the form of calligraphy most popular for body text across the region.
Because practice is an essential component of architectural education, the tower is designed to offer an integrated learning experience; by joining academic learning with the professional practice as well as the built environment in the real world of which Dubai is an exceptional example. With that in mind, the different programmatic zones have been intertwined to bring seemingly separate functions together, to create adjacencies & to trigger new interactions between students, teachers & professionals. Professional practice functions have been broken down into private offices, meeting rooms & open plan working spaces for the architects. Interactions are triggered by placing the professional open plan working areas adjacent to the student’s open workshops & art studios for example, or by having shared lounges, or by locating academic & professional meeting rooms adjacent to exhibition areas.
The tower does not only bring together the academic with the practice, the academic learning & the exterior local reality, it also aims at linking the school with the global architectural scene by locating UAE’s National Museum of Architecture inside that tower; making not only this school but also Dubai an active player in the international architecture discourse. As the vision of Expo 2020 states, Dubai aims at “connecting minds, connecting a future”.
Integrated learning is also achieved by locating the tower in the urban & business heart of Dubai. Witnessed from the panoramic observation deck and terraces of the tower, the rich & dynamic urban & architectural scenery become the real life learning experience. As opposed to the usual introverted learning, this makes for a real life extroverted learning. Located on the north end of Sheikh Zayed road, the site benefits from being at the heart of the city as well as the proximity of Al Jafiliya metro & bus stations & the Zaabeel Park. divided in three sections, the site accommodates the approach of cars, bicycles & pedestrians, along shaded paths. The 3 sections slope differently, allowing access to the building at 3 levels. The pedestrian section gradually becomes the ramp inside the tower. The site is landscaped with different materials & different densities of local trees.
The structure of the tower is composed of a compounded system. The slabs, made of reinforced concrete are in fact a continuous ramp spiralling at a slope of 5%, from bottom to top, climbing a total height of 348m creting an atrium in the centre. Supporting this ramp are two groups of columns. The columns located in the inner edge of the ramp are erected straight. The columns located on the outer edge of the ramp are tilted to be perpendicular with the sloping slabs & act as bracing to balance the slabs’ slope. Three cores going from the underground to the roof are the last structural element of the tower.
The main materials constituting the tower are steel encased in concrete for the columns, reinforced white concrete for the slabs, glass for the façade & local magnetic sand for the façade’s double skin shading mechanism.
Local magnetic sand as a shading mechanism in a Mucharrabieh Pattern
Within the external glazing in an extruded metal pattern, denser at the south. A fine metal mesh intersects the pattern. In the same space, there is magnetic sand, local from the Sabkha desert. Both pattern & mesh are connected to electrical currents. When the pattern current is on, it attracts the sand creating a medium level of shading. When the mesh current is on, it attracts more sand creating a high level of shading.
Wind energy & ventilation
The 348m tall tower is divided in four sections for a better ventilation. On the observation deck & roof, wind turbines capture the wind energy. The roof is slanted at a specific angle to capture the local North-West wind.
Solar energy & shading
In addition to the magnetic sand shading system described above, the slabs also provide shading in winter & total shading in summer. Embedded in the edge of the slabs all around the tower, are photovoltaic panels that tilt to align to the angle of the sun & capture solar energy all year round.
Within the double skin of the tower & due to the difference in temperature between indise & outside, water condenses. That water is collected through concealed channels that run along the slanted slabs & down to an underground water tank.
More information about this project is available upon request here.