Zira Island Carbon Neutral Master Plan / BIG Architects

Carbon Neutral master plans are being adopted in several countries, in times when energy and emissions are becoming very important.

And that´s exactly what will do to develop  Zira Island on the Caspian Sea,  located in the bay of the capital city Baku. The master plan was developed with danish BIG Architects and Ramboll engineers, with an architectural proposal  based upon the country’s dramatic natural setting.

In the words of Bjarke Ingels, the proposal for Zira Island [...] is an architectural landscape based on the natural landscape of Azerbaijan. This new architecture not only recreates the iconic silhouettes of the seven peaks, but more importantly creates an autonomous ecosystem where the flow of air, water, heat and energy are channeled in almost natural ways. A mountain creates biotopes and eco-niches, it channels water and stores heat, it provides viewpoints and valleys, access and shelter. The Seven Peaks of Azerbaijan are not only metaphors, but actual living models of the mountainous ecosystems of Azerbaijan.

This mountain concept may sound strange, but has developed this in the past as you can see on Mountain Dwellings.

As you can see on the images (and on a video below), this urbanized peaks that Bjarke describes are derived from the geometry of famous mountains in the country, and each peak becomes a unit of private and public mixed uses. The result is an organic skyline that merges buildings with the natural topography of the island. Among the peaks, there´s a public central valley that connects a series of private resort villages and the beaches. Also, a public trekking path connects the mountains and allows the visitors to scale up to the top.  It also includes  300 private villas that take advantage of their setting with panoramic views out over the Caspian Sea.

But the main highlight of this masterplan was to make the Zira Island completly independent of external resources, achieved through the mix of traditional Azerbaijani building tradition and new technologies. The aim is to provide a high-end living wiht a minimum usage of the resources.

This strategy includes several aspects:


The buildings of the island are heated and cooled by heat pumps connecting to the surrounding Caspian Sea. Solar heat panels integrated in the architecture create a steady supply of hot water, while photovoltaics on strategically located facades and roof tops power daytime functions as swimming pools and aqua parks.


Waste water and storm water is collected and led to a waste water treatment plant, where it is then cleaned, processed and recycled for irrigation. The solid parts of the waste water are processed and composted and finally turned into top soil, fertilizing the island. The constant irrigation and fertilizing of the island supports the lush green condition of a tropical island, with a minimal ecological footprint.


Zira Zero Island benefits from the fact that Baku is “the city of wind”. By harvesting the wind energy through an offshore wind farm, the island will have its own CO2-neutral power supply. Further by locating the wind turbines on sea, it transforms the existing offshore oil industry’s platforms & foundations in Baku into a more sustainable future of wind turbine platforms.


The landscaping of the island is derived from wind simulations of the microclimates created by the mountains. Swirly patterns created by the wind moving its way through the Seven Peaks inform the planting of trees and the design of public spaces. Where the winds and turbulence are strongest the trees becomes denser, creating lower wind speeds and thus a comfortable outdoor leisure climate.

Cite: Basulto, David. "Zira Island Carbon Neutral Master Plan / BIG Architects" 30 Jan 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=12956>
  • gosh..that´s ridicoluous and kitschy. I am sick of that ….
    earth is not a museum for bad sculptures..these chunks could represent any mountain or hill on this planet. and do not tell me these structures are eccological….welcome to concrete land….oh where is the nature…!!!

  • roadkill

    carbon neutral? i guess the only way they reduce the emissions is by having lots of omissions….

  • Adam

    OMG this HATE is killing me inside :)

    I think the project is beautiful.

    p.s. anything green on the pictures = vegetation that includes trees just FYI ;)

    roadkill work on your avatar instead of making nonsesical comment

  • nice try….you said it: everything that is green on the PICTURE!!! is vegetation. ;)
    and it´s not real hate but just the despair of that kind of naive architectural thinking.

  • http://www.bravomartin.cl martin

    it makes me remember the mayan pyramids, they also were carbon neutral, in a simpler way, perhaps.

  • http://blog.buildllc.com/ Andrew

    I’m always very skeptical when architects design entire cities with one fell swoop. Cities, towns, even villages are complicated and messy (in a good way). Without that organic process of pluralism, time and all the “accidents” that occur, such proposals seem dubious as solutions for civilization. In all fairness – I’m a residential architect and something of this scale is entirely out of my league (and comprehension).

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  • roadrunner

    ridiculous!! how ecological is it to whipe all the nature from that island to build those BIG mountains( dont to mention the golf course….)! furthermore what about materials of that giant “things”? they havnt thought a second about possibilties design can have for sustainable architecutre. ahh anyway.. this entier design is so much sustainable as the green paint on my car!
    the whole concept is really makeing me sad…. can believe architects think so narrow minded, and still producing class pyramids with pictogramms showin how green those things are…


    • T.O.O.M.U.C.H.

      You are so right – spot on! Yes is More? – no way! BIG is TOOMUCH.

  • Franco

    The idea of making it similar to the mountains is really interesting, cause the island seams to be a focus point of the region, but I’m in doubt if making the shape with buildings isn’t too ridiculous like Las Vegas or so.
    BIG has other projects much more convincing, such as the Escher Tower or the “People’s Building” in Shanghai.

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  • http://none archidork

    I LOVE BIG+PLOT! I know some people would look at it as a pure “pretty form-making” project or “not a project yet” but really, I still see lots of potentials in this.

  • Ala

    The only thing that matters in the end is to make it happen. Some will hate it. Some will love it. I love their idea, and new form although some forms are relentless as Andrew pointed out.

    In my personal view, I welcome new experimentations even though they have more chances to fail.

  • http://www.sgurin.ucoz.ru/ sgurin

    Очень нравится. Класс.

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  • roadrunner

    но это выглядит глупо со!

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  • Gregory

    I applaud Azerbijan in taking such and initiative to try to create a carbon neutral city. The irony is stunning though that this ‘carbon neutral’ theme park that makes Disney Land look like Florence, is being paid for with Petro-dollars.
    Why not apply to existing housing,(or even new but good,reasonable housing), viable, clean energy solutions, (some of which are proposed in your project). To waste all of that clean energy to run an incredibly expensive aqua park appeals to a 13 year old mentality, as do the overall aesthetics and silly mountain range analogies. Increase emissions controls on your vehicles, build more wind farms etc. We all know the drill. Azerbijan has obviously the will to look seriously at sustainability if they are willing to drop this much money into a theme park. Why not explore a project that the rest of the world can take seriously!

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  • vibenade

    i found that lot of BIG projects very inspiring!

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  • http://www.travel-to-florence.com Malca

    i dont usually comment, but after reading through so much info i had to say thanks

  • irkl_z irkl_z

    please stop him

  • shadi

    I’ve once was a fan but now i can say that they are doing it the wrong way !