Dubai's insatiable thirst for world firsts and records appears unquenched, as the city sets its eyes on yet another landmark title. Already home to the world's tallest building and with plans in the pipeline for the first fully rotational skyscraper, developer Dubai Holdings has unveiled plans for what would be the world's first climate-controlled city, something they call "The Mall of the World."
Although it may not be quite on the scale of Buckminster Fuller's plan to encapsulate Manhattan, Dubai is giving the late American architect a run for his money. The Mall of the World, if built, will be a staggering nine times larger than The Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.
The 4.3-mile-long shopping mall would be encapsulated by a retractable dome that would be capable of offering an air-conditioned environment to the inhabitant shoppers who want to escape the city's searing desert heat. According to the developer, the space will be have almost 300 buildings with an annual capacity of up to 180 million visitors.
By comparison, The Mall of America, built in 1992, offers a 5.4 million square feet of floor space (plus an additional 2.5 million in a separate plaza).
Due to be complete by 2020, Dubai Holding COO Morgan Parker has said that the dome "will be critical to the Emirate's economic growth." Already more than 100 engineers and architects are working on plans that will see the area occupy around 48 million square feet of space when complete. Also included in the scheme will be a vast network of 33 roads as well as walkways, cycle paths, bus routes, and Venetian-style waterways.
Aside from copious amounts of shops and restaurants, the dome will also offer:
The largest indoor family theme park in the world
Wellness district catering to medical tourists in a 3-million-square-foot area
Cultural district comprising theatres built around New York’s Broadway, The Celebration Walk, similar to the Ramblas Street in Barcelona and shopping streets based on London’s Oxford Street
Dubai’s largest celebration centre accommodating 15,000 revellers
Naturally, the project has its vehement critics, with some labelling the project as a "dystopia waiting to happen."
Only time will tell if Dubai's dome is doomed.
The Mitchell Park Domes have been an iconic and well-loved part of the Milwaukee skyline for several generations. As of February 9th, the Domes are closed to the public amidst reports of falling concrete, and their future is unknown.
Built in stages between 1959 and 1967, the three domes were designed by local architect Donald Grieb, who took inspiration from a contemporary architect and engineer, Buckminster Fuller. Fuller’s office declined to partner with Grieb, noting that they did not want to alter the design of the structures they were working on. At the Mitchell Domes, Grieb made two important innovations to typical geodesic domes of the period.
First, they are considered to be the first conoidal glass domes ever built – meaning they have an elongated vertical axis (140 feet in diameter and 85 feet high), making them proportionally taller than typical half-spherical domes.
Second, the substructure was made of reinforced precast concrete – as opposed to bare steel or aluminum components. The domes were built in the age some important technological advancements in concrete, and one in which the likes of Le Corbusier and Eero Saarinen were creating innovative forms out of the material.
The structural ribbing consists of cast on site steel reinforced concrete units. These members are welded to steel plates, also encased in concrete, which give a monolithic appearance from the inside. Over the top of each dome is a triangulated aluminum and glass skin, connected to the concrete frame by stainless steel hubs.
One disadvantage of this uninsulated concrete structure is its susceptibility to water. Water working its way into cracks in concrete, corroding its steel reinforcement, has caused expansion and spalling. The glass skin on each Dome is designed to be watertight and has an internal drainage system for condensation, yet with age water has found its way into any building – through cracks in the glass and clogged drains. The Tropical Dome maintains 80 degrees and 85 percent humidity, putting the concrete at risk from the beginning.
Since 1994, the domes have undergone numerous repairs and renovations. In 2008 a major renovation involved remodeling the lobby, replacement of hundreds of cracked glass panels, and the addition internal lighting that gave the structures a more defining presence at nighttime.
Milwaukee County, the owner of the domes, spent $200,000 on concrete repairs in the Tropical dome between 2013 and 2014, and in 2015 had flagged another $500,000 for a structural study and to install protective nets. Local engineering consulting firm GRAEF USA was hired to analyze the existing structure and propose a fix. The severity of the crumbling concrete led to the closing of the Arid Dome on January 28th.
A week later, the County made the decision to close the domes indefinitely, until short term and long term solutions can be evaluated. According to County Executive Chris Abele, the long term recommendation is for a complete reconstruction of the three domes, at an estimated cost between $65–75 Million.
The proposed short term fix involves wrapping thousands of concrete members to contain spalled concrete, which has been reported to be as large as a man’s hand. Milwaukee County has reason to take major precautions with its infrastructure. In 2010, a massive concrete slab fell from the entrance to the County-owned O’Donnell parking structure, killing a 15-year-old boy and injuring two others.
The Milwaukee County Board has announced a Public Hearing on February 24th to discuss the future of the domes. In the meantime, the issue was quick to become politicized in the upcoming race for County Executive, as Chris Abele’s challenger blames him for not investing in the city’s public infrastructure.
Lucrative gains from annual religious pilgrimage has the Saudi Ministry of Finance clamoring to build the world’s largest hotel in the desert of Mecca, featuring 10,000 guest rooms, four helipads, and 12 tightly clustered towers on a 10-story plinth. Crowned at its summit by one of the largest domes in the world, the $3.6 billion mega-hotel has five off-limits floors earmarked for Saudi royalty, 70 restaurants, and an entire multi-function commercial space at its base for a shopping mall, food courts, a bus station, conference center and a lavishly appointed ballroom.
Construction conglomerate Dar Al-Handasah designed the mammoth edifice to model a “traditional desert fortress,” sporting flourishes such as fluted pink pilasters framing arched blue-mirrored windows. The two towers within the dome will rise up 45 storeys above the Mecca desert, while two more towers will attain 35 floors, with the remaining eight towers at 30 storeys tall. London-based interior design firm Areen Hospitality has signed on to appoint the interior spaces in the palatial luxury typical of the region.
While deep pockets are an unspoken mandate, guests can choose between four and five-star luxury accommodations. The hotel occupies a 646,000-square-foot site in the Manafi district, and is less than one mile south of the Grand Mosque, thronged by two million pilgrims per year and currently undergoing a $61 billion expansion to accommodate seven million worshippers by 2040.
The world’s largest hotel by number of hotel rooms, soon to be dwarfed by the Abraj Kudai, is the MGM Grand Las Vegas at 6,198 guestrooms. The gargantuan construction, opening in 2017, is the latest in a spate of residential and commercial developments galvanized by rising tourism revenue, currently raking in more than $9.2 billion annually.
An example is the Jabal Omar development along the western edge of Mecca, which will accommodate nearly 100,000 people in 26 luxury hotels, as well as a six-story prayer hall. “The city is turning into Meca-hattan” Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Guardian. “Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out.”
Bjarke Ingels might be using his talents to embellish another European power plant. With his ski slope-topped waste-to-energy plant underway in Copenhagen, the Danish designer has unveiled plans for a biomass cogeneration plant in Uppsala, Sweden.
DesignBoom reported that city officials asked Ingels to design the facility that would supplement the region's energy infrastructure during the winter.
Since the building will not be used during the summer, BIG opted to create a colorful public amenity. That meant topping the plant in a geodesic rainbow dome which gives the whole thing a very funkadelic greenhouse-y feel.
Boston Valley Terra Cotta restored the Alberta Legislature Building's century-old dome using a combination of digital and traditional techniques.
Restoring a century-old terra cotta dome without blueprints would be a painstaking process in any conditions. Add long snowy winters and an aggressive freeze/thaw cycle, and things start to get really interesting. For their reconstruction of the Alberta Legislature Building dome, the craftsmen at Boston Valley Terra Cotta had a lot to think about, from developing a formula for a clay that would stand up to Edmonton’s swings in temperatures, to organizing just-in-time delivery of 18,841 components. Their answer? Technology. Thanks to an ongoing partnership with Omar Khan at the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Orchard Park, New York, firm’s employees are as comfortable with computers as they are with hand tools.
On site in Edmonton, technicians took a 3D laser scan of the dome prior to disassembly. They also tagged specific terra cotta pieces to send to New York as samples. These pieces, which ranged from simple blocks to gargoyles and capitals, went straight to the in-house lab for scanning into Rhino. The drafting department combined the overall scan with the individual scans to create a total picture of the dome’s surface geometry and depth.
The individual scans, in addition, were critical to making the approximately 508 unique molds employed on the project. To compensate for the eight percent shrinkage clay goes through during drying and firing, the craftsmen at Boston Valley used to have to perform a series of calculations before building a mold. “[Now we] take the scan data and increase by eight percent by simply doing a mouse click,” said Boston Valley national sales manager Bill Pottle. In some cases, the craftsmen converted the scan data into a tool path for the five-axis CNC machine used to make the molds. “We’re doing that more and more in some of our mold making. It also allows us to ensure that we’re recreating them to the most exacting tolerance and dimensions that we can,” said Pottle.
The data from the 3D scans also helped the craftsmen replicate the dome’s complicated curvature. “Between the scanned pieces and the scan of the dome itself, we were able to figure out some very complex geometry where each of these individual pieces had the correct shape to them,” said Pottle.
Facade Manufacturer Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Architects Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Allan Merrick Jeffers, Richard Blakey
Location Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Date of Completion November 2013
System terra cotta rain screen
For sustainability and durability, the designers at Boston Valley reconfigured the dome as a rain screen system, with terra cotta components attached to a stainless steel frame. But while the rain screen boosts environmental performance, it also demands incredible precision. Again, the 3D models proved invaluable. “The models allowed these tight tolerances. [We] could explode it and make sure everything was connected. It would have been impossible without that level of sophisticated software,” said president John Krouse.
The Alberta Legislature Building dome restoration is the first major project on which Boston Valley has unleashed its full array of digital design tools. Krouse hopes its success—he estimates that the digital tools speeded fabrication by 200 percent—will send a message to designers interested in experimenting with terra cotta: “What we’re trying to say to the architecture and design community globally is don’t be afraid to start designing domes with complex geometry, because we’re equipped with all this technology. It doesn’t have to be a square box.”
San Diego’s New Central Library, which opened earlier this fall, was a long time coming. The project has been in the works since at least 1971, when the first of 46 studies on the subject of a new library building was published. Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA, who designed the $184.9 million structure with Tucker Sadler & Associates, came on board in 1995. Why did he stick with it so long, through budget problems and four site changes? “It’s in my backyard,” Quigley said. “It was just too important a project, culturally, to the city, and to all of us...though it was very difficult, economically, to withstand all the stops and starts.”
The centerpiece of the New Central Library is its steel-mesh dome, which, Quigley explained, is actually a composite of eight three-point arches. “It’s all about buoyancy,” Quigley said. “It feels like it’s lifting off the building, as opposed to a traditional dome, which is weighing the building down. It’s sort of the anti-dome, really.” The dome’s steel-mesh sails serve both practical and symbolic ends. On a pragmatic level, the latticework protects the library’s collections from sun damage while allowing some natural light to filter through, mimicking the experience of reading under a shade tree. At the same time, the dome is a metaphor for self-improvement. “Visually the dome is not complete. It’s clearly in the act of becoming a dome, becoming something,” Quigley said.
Quigley’s vision for the library remained remarkably consistent throughout its long gestation. The architect credits the residents of San Diego, who articulated their priorities in a series of public workshops. At the top of the list was their desire for an iconic building—hence the dome. The workshop attendees also asked for a formal reading room, in addition to the series of intimate work spaces favored by contemporary library programmers. “What the community understood is that reading rooms aren’t just about library science, they’re about community,” Quigley said. “The library is kind of the last bastion of equality: everyone’s equal, everyone can come, no ticket required.”
The reading room and the library’s other public spaces—including a topiary sculpture court, auditorium, meeting room, and art gallery—are clustered at the top of the building. Typically, Quigley said, public areas are relegated to a library’s lowest floors, to facilitate access. But at the design workshops the architect organized, residents pointed out that rooftop views are usually restricted to those who can afford a penthouse apartment. “If an architect had suggested it, they probably would have revoked our license,” Quigley quipped. But the New Central Library wasn’t just the work of an architect. It was a product of decades of public debate and reflection, according to Quigley. “In my mind a building that does not function emotionally is not utilitarian. This is what we needed, permission from the grassroots,” he said.
A web-like dome in Saginaw, Michigan changes colors to reflect the level of carbon dioxide in the air. Solar-powered LED lights connected to an onsite CO2 monitor illuminate the structure’s fibers in timed patterns to create the appearance of an organic response.
On display in Saginaw’s First Merritt Park through October 31, the installation is part of the Great Lakes Bay Region’s “Art and Sol” celebration of art, culture, and science.
The structure of Loop.pH’s SOL Dome was inspired by molecular biology. SOL Dome, eight meters in diameter, was constructed on site by volunteers over three days.
As AN reported in our latest West Coast issue, designs for the Amazon headquarters in downtown Seattle have gone through another revision since this past May. Though still channeling greenhouses and conservatories, renderings reveal an update to the three interconnected domes on Block 19 that architecture firm NBBJ has dubbed "conjoined Catalan spheres." With a skin of white painted steel, the new design has moved beyond more traditional cross-hatching, and now nods to the pentagons of a soccer ball. But these forms are expanded and pushed to create an irregular pattern that exerts a more organic geometry. Read more about the project in AN's article or check out an expanded gallery of renderings below.
Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, MexicoHGA Gallery Rapson Hall, Goldstein Museum of Design, University of Minnesota
89 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN
August 24, 2013 to October 13, 2013
Sixteenth century Mexico was home to buildings of extraordinary construction quality erected for the thousands of people converting to Christianity. Indigenous craftsmen utilized the most sophisticated technology and their profound understanding of locally accessible materials in an intricate system of symbiosis to collaborate with Spanish architects who were experienced with the architecture of the ribbed vault. Employing Mixtecan masonry techniques and European geometry, they collaborated to construct three churches in the Mixteca region of southern Mexico with sophisticated geometrical vaults unique to 16th century America. Through digitally scanning San Pablo Teposcolula, Santa Domingo Yanhuitlán, and San Juan Bautista Coixtlahuaca, researcher and guest curator Benjamin Ibarra-Sevilla, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, was able to produce scale replicas of each gothic dome.
Mixtec Stonecutting Artistry: 16th Century Ribbed Vaults in Mixteca, Mexico, on view from August 24 to October 13, 2013, reveals the complex digital scanning, documentation, and three-dimensional modeling that facilitated the research and replication of the rib vaults in the late 20th century.
French Pritzker Prize–winning architect Jean Nouvel's design for Louvre Abu Dhabi has begun construction after a series of delays. The building's most prominent feature is a 180-meter-diameter dome. The design of the dome is culturally relevant as well as utilitarian. The shape is prominent in traditional Arabian architecture. As the Louvre Abu Dhabi website describes, it is “an emblematic feature...evoking the mosque, the mausoleum, and the madrasa.” The dome's expanse also protects the building and its visitors from the sun. Carefully formulated geometric apertures in the all-white structure allow diffused and dappled daylight inside the museum, while mitigating heat gain. Nouvel designed the dappled pattern to emulate interlaced palm fronds, which are traditionally used in Arabic countries for thatch roofs.
Nouvel described his vision for the 64,000 square meter site thus:
"A microclimate is created by drawing on sensations that have been explored countless times in great Arab architecture, which is based on the mastery of light and geometry . . . a structure made up of shadows, of movement and discovery."
Nouvel was awarded the design commission for the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2010. It was originally meant to be completed in 2012. However, in January of that year, the Financial Times reported that after a "the conclusion of a government spending review led by Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, vice-chairman of the executive council," the Tourism Development & Investment Company in Abu Dhabi set the museum back 3 years to 2015.
Set on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three art museum branches meant to shore up the area as a cultural hub within the United Arab Emirates. However, all have faced major delays and completion dates pushed years into the future.
All renderings courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel.
Amazon renderings released this week in a Seattle design review board meeting would have made the late Buckminster Fuller proud. They reveal new plans for an additional structure on the proposed three-block, three-tower Amazon complex in downtown Seattle: three five-story conjoined biodomes up to 95 feet tall, with the largest 130 feet in diameter. These glass and steel domes, envisioned by local firm NBBJ, would provide 65,000 square feet of interior flex work and brainstorm areas for Amazon employees, while leaving abundant space to accommodate trees and diverse plantings. Inspiration came from nature found indoors—in greenhouses, conservatories, and convention centers around the world. From Renzo Piano’s “Bolla” in Genoa, to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Brussels. (Fun fact: the largest dome in the United States—an indoor sports arena—is in fact in Washington State, in Tacoma, a city south of Seattle.)
Far from ordinary, the design, still in design review, have stirred a spectrum of reactions from Seattleites—excitement, as well as criticism. With the exception of lower-level retail space, the biodomes would be open to Amazon workers only. It's an unusual move for a company that has kept a low profile in Seattle. See more here.
Rockaway Beach, the waterfront community severely battered by Hurricane Sandy, is now the site of MoMA PS1's geodesic dome, a temporary cultural center offering lectures, exhibits, performances, and community events. PS1 kicked off the opening of the VW Dome 2 last Friday with a performance by singer Patti Smith, a fellow Rockaways resident. The museum will collaborate with local organizations in Queens to provide a range of programming over the next few months.
The VW Dome 2 is part of a larger upcoming exhibit, EXPO 1: NEW YORK, that will present a variety of ideas and strategies to create a more sustainable waterfront. Last month, MoMA PS1 called on artists, architects, and designers to submit 3-minute video proposals that address relevant issues such as shoreline protections, community engagement, and climate change. The 25 winning submissions will be on view within the next month.
Of course, this discussion would be incomplete and shortsighted without the feedback from the local community. Kevin Boyle, editor of The Wave, and Ideas Wanted-columnist Rick Horan have set up a video camera inside the VW Dome 2 and invited residents to participate in a conversation about the recovery efforts and needs of the Rockaways. The first Open Camera Session took place on Saturday, but locals will have another opportunity to offer their input tonight between 6:30 and 8:30 PM.
The VW Dome 2 is located at the southern end of the parking lot between Beach 94th and Beach 95th Streets.