AL_A has won a competition to design a new mosque within the Foster + Partner-designed World Trade Center complex in Abu Dhabi. The 2000-square-meter project, envisioned as a "pathway to serenity" rather than a single building, leads visitors on a journey through an informal park of palm trees that slowly align with the mosque's shifted grid as users approach the Prayer Hall. Once inside, visitors are facing towards Mecca.
"The mosque is envisaged as a piece of the city, one that reflects the journey from the temporal to the spiritual," said AL_A director Ho-Yin Ng. "The mosque and the garden become one, with the trees and the columns forming an informal vertical landscape and allowing Friday prayers to spill outside."
By day, the concrete facade of APG Architecture and Planning Group's latest project, the Al Aziz Mosque in Abu Dhabi, features protruding elements of Arabic script spelling out the 99 names of God from the Quran. By night though, the 515 square meter facade is transformed, as the concrete script lights up in the darkness. The effect is made possible thanks to the translucent concrete paneling system provided by German-based manufacturer LUCEM.
Being such a recent movement in the international architectural discourse, the reach and significance of post-modernism can sometimes go unnoticed. In this selection, chosen by Adam Nathaniel Furman, the "incredibly rich, extensive and complex ecosystem of projects that have grown out of the initial explosion of postmodernism from the 1960s to the early 1990s" are placed side by side for our delight.
From mosques that imagine an idyllic past, via Walt Disney’s Aladdin from the 1990s, to a theatre in Moscow that turns its façade into a constructivist collage of classical scenes, "there are categories in post-modernism to be discovered, and tactics to be learned." These projects trace forms of complex stylistic figuration, from the high years of academic postmodernism, to the more popular of its forms that spread like wildfire in the latter part of the 20th century.
In just three short years, Frank Gehry’s 450,000-square-foot Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will open. More than 12 times the size of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim New York, the expansive $800 million museum will showcase 1960s art from around the world within an asymmetrical mountain of plaster blocks and self-cooling translucent cones. Anticipating its completion, the New York Times sat down with Gehry to hear the story behind the building’s design. Watch the full interview with Gehry, here.
Norman Foster, David Nelson, Gerard Evenden, Stuart Latham, Muir Livingstone, John Blythe, Edson Yabiku, David Crosswaite, Giulia Galiberti, Sandra Glass, Ashley Lane, Giulia Leoni, Emily Phang, Bram van der Wal, Ho-Ling Cheung, Luca Latini, Franquibel Lima, Chris Nunn, Riccardo Russo, Jillian Salter, Ronald Schuurmans, Sunphol Sorakul, Daniel Weiss, Laura Podda, Yong Bin Kim, Yvonne Jendreiek
Details have been released on Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ first project in the Middle East: Maryah Plaza. The four-tower, one billion dollar scheme will be built on Abu Dhabi’s 114 hectare Al Maryah Island, which is slated to become the emirate’s central business district.
The Middle East has historically been known for many things — sustainability not being one of them. The clash of Western values with the harshness of the local climate can often wedge sustainability between a lot of sand and a hard place. Though there is a broad critique of the unsustainable attributes of the region’s development path, for years there has been a shining exception: Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, seventeen kilometers east-south-east from the city of Abu Dhabi.
Masdar City exists as an urban development project run by the renewable energy company Masdar, who has committed $15 billion to making Masdar City the planet’s most sustainable new city. Unlike Abu Dhabi, a city which unthinkingly follows antiquated models and Western building principles, Masdar City has a wealth of potential to offer the world of green urban planning - something the world sorely needs.
But Masdar City is certainly not without its share of critics. On first approach, the concentrated development, located in the center of six square kilometers of empty space, does little to awe, especially in comparison to the sprawling wave that is Abu Dhabi. Thanks largely to the global financial recession, buildings currently comprise less than 10% of the area committed to the urban experiment. Even today there is a group of onlookers that suggest Masdar City may just be a mirage after all.
However, this broader view is not necessarily synonymous with the bigger picture.
The delicate mashrabiya has offered effective protection against intense sunlight in the Middle East for several centuries. However, nowadays this traditional Islamic window element with its characteristic latticework is used to cover entire buildings as an oriental ornament, providing local identity and a sun-shading device for cooling. In fact, designers have even transformed the vernacular wooden structure into high-tech responsive daylight systems.
Jean Nouvel is one of the leading architects who has strongly influenced the debate about modern mashrabiyas. His Institut du monde arabe in Paris was only the precedent to two buildings he designed for the harsh sun of the Middle East: The Doha Tower, which is completely wrapped with a re-interpretation of the mashrabiya, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum with its luminous dome.
Humanity’s ability to construct and change an urban landscape is incredible, but rarely do we get to see that interaction at full scale. Beno Saradzic’s "BEYOND: Memoirs in a Timelapse" captures just that. Taken from more than two years of footage from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this film showcases hourly transformations wrought on some of the city’s most famous buildings, such as the Al Bahar Towers and Burj Khalifa.
Thomas Heatherwick has been commissioned to transform a 125,000 square meter park in the heart of Abu Dhabi into a multifunctional “sunken oasis.” Inspired by “fractured desert crust,” the park is designed as a series of fragmented canopies that rise to form a three-dimensional landscape across the site. Beneath the cracked surface will be a series of interconnected public spaces cooled by lush vegetation that provide organic produce to local restaurants and space for community gardens.
In this powerful interview, Jean Nouvel explains his relationship to Arabic architecture. Discussing his various projects in Arabic countries - such as his office tower in Doha or the Louvre Abu Dhabi - Nouvel discusses how he is influenced by and integrates the abstraction and geometry of traditional Islamic architecture into his modern designs. He also espouses a strong opinion on the understanding of context in architecture, saying: "I'm a contextual architect, but for me the context isn't only the site. It's above all a wider historical context - a cultural context... each time, building is trying to continue a history, and to take part in this history." His architecture, he says, is about listening: "The architect is not meant to impose his own values or his own sensitivities on such general plans." Video via Louisiana.
Becoming a destination in itself and potential catalyst in the future urban growth of Abu Dhabi, the Zaha Hadid designed Sheikh Zayed Bridge was conceived in a highly mobile society that requires a new route around the Gulf south shore, connecting the three Emirates together. Hufton+Crow shared with us their photos as they capture the many viewpoints of this sinusoidal waveform structure. A complete gallery of images after the break.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, aims at creating a welcoming world which associates lights and shadows as well as shimmers and calm places in a serene atmosphere. Its objective is to belong to its country, to its history, to its geography, avoiding being either a dull translation of this reality or a pleonasm meaning boredom and convention. It also aims at emphasizing the fascination generated by rare encounters. More images and architects’ description after the break.