Critically engaging the emerging Abu Dhabi context of Masdar City, Zayed University and other tabula rasa territories, Predock_Frane Architects’ project proposes an antidote and refuge to the frenetic future-scape internationalism of the rapidly developing Arabian coast. In proposing a new abstract art space that allows for escape and contemplation Predock_Frane Architects’ project positions itself as a hybrid landscape/environmental machine that can both deliver power and engage the radical phenomenon of the desert. Along a path connecting Masdar City to Zayed University, a low-slung, energy producing sensitive field beckons public engagement.
Predock_Frane Architects’ proposal for the Land Art Generator Initiative on the Masdar adjacent site is conceived as a sensitive draping tissue whose shape responds to the local natural forces of the Arabian Desert, while simultaneously acting as a phenomenological instrument that engages and reveals the power and subtlety of desert light and surface. Like the woven hair of a Bedouin “black tent”, a field of intelligent solar modules form a veil that covers the entire site. Sometimes acting as landscape, sometimes as spatial enclosure, the solar units undulate across the site forming a deeply considered pattern of responses to wind, sun, night sky and pathways. Mirroring the blanket of reflective modules, the geometrically patterned ground plane of sand and water further defines the site and engages in specific environmental response.
Working collaboratively with Cool Earth, producers of a new breed of high concentration solar modules, Predock_Frane Architects’ project deploys an ingenious new breed of solar technology. Eliminating the metal content and material weight of traditional flat solar panels with air and recyclable plastics, the Cool Earth module takes into consideration the Cradle to Cradle carbon footprint thinking of the entire lifecycle. Using inexpensive and free materials, the balloon-like solar unit makes cost and efficiency its modus operandi. A curved, mirrored, mylar surface is designed to concentrate the sun’s rays of energy onto a cell of highly efficient photovoltaic material. The concentrated cell produces around 300-400 times the energy than that of a conventional cell. With close to 25,000 solar cells the Solar Canopy will produce on average 73,000 Megawatts per year – enough to power the country of Chad for a year. The soft curvaceous underbelly of the combined units makes for a sensuous undulating surface that contains the indoor-outdoor spaces below. Structurally, a mast and cable system like a tent will create a tensile cable net that the solar units are suspended within. Like a field of sunflowers the Cool Earth units will track the sun angle, optimizing energy gain.