The inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial, the first biennial on the topic in the Middle East, is currently being held in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The event showcases the collaborative work of hundreds of designers, industry leaders, and institutions from over 20 countries that provide visitors with a glimpse of some of the most inventive and revolutionary graphic design projects in the Middle East. The event space is in the historic Bank of Sharjah building located in a well-known modernist block in Sharjah that was built in the 1970s. Dubai-based T.ZED Architects was commissioned to renovate multiple floors of the block’s long-abandoned bank in order to house the Biennial. The architectural firm preserved and restored many of the antiquated features and remains of the bank through the process, contributing to the exhibition’s unconventional approach. Despite the recent face-lift, the Ministry of Graphic Design will be the building’s last tenant before it is demolished in the coming months. The event is organized by Fikra, the Sharjah-founded graphic design studio that acts as a global stage for artists, architects, and designers in the Middle East, encouraging them to join the global design conversation, collaborate with one another, and analyze the ways in which graphic design transforms the rapidly evolving world of the 21st century. The exhibition’s artistic directors, Na Kim, Prem Krishnamurthy, and Emily Smith, developed a fictitious organization dubbed the Ministry of Graphic Design to structure the show. They describe the Ministry as a “playfully formulated but serious-minded pop-up institution" dedicated to promoting dialogue, research, and understanding within the local, regional, and international graphic design community. Mirroring the hierarchical governmental structure of the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry is composed of six different departments, each one touching on a different feature of historic or modern graphic design. The departments are headed by a diverse team of curators, and each leader is accountable for the content and contributions of its exhibitions. Among them are the Department of Mapping Margins, the Department of Graphic Optimism, the Department of Non-Binaries, the Department of Flying Saucers, the Department of Dematerializing Language, and the Office of the Archive. The Fikra Graphic Design Biennial is open now through November 30.
Posts tagged with "Middle East":
Report finds the Middle East could soon be too hot for human inhabitation as Dubai moves forward with its own indoor rainforest in a skyscraper
In an ironic twist, the global fuel powerhouse that is the Middle East is at risk of becoming too hot for human life due to the emissions produced as a result of creating that fuel. Such news evidently means little to the city of Dubai which is currently in line for two new luxurious skyscrapers, one of which will feature its very own rainforest. Jeremy Pal and Elfatih A. B. Eltahir recently published "Nature: Climate Change" which outlines how rising temperatures in the Persian Gulf will render the area inhospitable. The study compares a standard model of CO2 emissions over the course of 80 years to the temperatures deemed viable for human life. The more shocking news is that the research factors in mankind's predicted future efforts to curb emissions. The climate variables that were used to determine that human life was unsupportable were complex, though Pal and Eltahir simplified it, using a measurement called "wet bulb" heat. This was described as “a combined measure of temperature and humidity, or ‘mugginess'” by which a maximum exposure time of six hours to the conditions (of 95 Fahrenheit) was stated. Anything more “would probably be intolerable even for the fittest of humans,” they noted, adding that "even the most basic outdoor activities are likely to be severely impacted.” Toronto-based architect firm ZASA, however, has different ideas. Situated off Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) in Al Thanyah First, two luxury towers in exuberant Dubai style will offer nothing other than the flamboyant panache that made the city famous: the complex boasts its own rainforest and an artificial beach. The 3.2 acre site will encompass the two, 47-story-high towers, a five storey podium, and two basement levels. Both towers will include a "sky lobby" and "sky pool." Meanwhile, the 450-room Key Hotel will offer fine dining restaurants, spa, a health club, and meeting rooms. The other tower is being called a "Serviced Apartment Tower." ZASA says that the architecture is meant to represent contemporary life in Dubai, while the "modernist" structures utilize "active frontage" via the implementation of podiums that proportion the towers. (h/t The New York Times for Nature: Climate Change)
Looking to expand its footprint across 35 acres outside Cairo, Egypt's National Cancer Institute has hired Skidmore Owings & Merrill to design and plan nine million square feet of healthcare space for an “international nexus of cancer research, education, and discourse” that is targeting LEED Gold. Situated in Giza's Sheikh Zayed City, approximately 17 miles west of central Cairo, the sprawling new cancer center is organized around modules and separate circulation spines for staff and patients. The whole facility is undergirded by a massive support plinth sitting atop six levels below grade. Above that subterranean campus, six towers for inpatients shade outdoor courtyards, while four more comprise the outpatient facility. Both complexes connect to a “multilevel diagnostic and treatment platform” with imaging equipment, surgery centers and all kinds of treatment. The center includes ample space for training new medical professionals, including a 1,000-bed teaching hospital and research center, nursing and technician training institutes and a scientific center. Despite its mammoth size, the 200-acre campus is intended to feel cohesive, according to SOM's project description, because of its highly organized layout.
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.”
The two innovators behind the Jetman Dubai jetpack athlete team recently released a video of them streaking in synchronized flight over the Dubai skyline and surrounding desert—and it brings a completely new perspective to the architecture of the city. Yves Rossy, a professional pilot from Switzerland, and Vince Reffet, a professional skydiver, have spent years perfecting the contraptions for propelled human flight. Although incapable of independent take-off, their delta-winged, turbine-powered jetpack can gain altitude when dropped from an aircraft and sustain flight for 6–13 minutes at speeds of 112–186 mph. In the promotional video for Skydive Dubai, the duo are shown careening close to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, shooting over the Persian Gulf coast, and freewheeling over the desert. “I felt I was flying. It is just an insane feeling,” one of the jetmen said in the video. “The moment when the action is coming there is big concentration. It’s a mixture of fear and adrenaline that we transform into good energy, into power.” The flight was shot from a chase plane and two GoPro cameras attached to the jetmen, according to The Verge. Rossy, infatuated with the world of free fall and an innovator in the world of propelled human flight, has tinkered for ten years with a jetpack that would allow for prolonged flight and better control of trajectory. With each new iteration, Rossy shrank the wings to make them more aerodynamic for faster flight, building on his first flightsuit that enabled him to stay airborne for just 10 minutes. Rossy is currently developing a new flightsuit featuring bigger and lighter wings with a slower approach speed for independent takeoff and landing, so that the flyer’s own legs can be used as landing gear. In 2013, Rossy cruised in the air alongside a B17 bomber jet at Oshkosh’s AirVenture airshow in Wisconsin. Rossy has also annexed the skies above the Swiss Alps, the English channel, and the Grand Canyon. [h/t Bored Panda]
Qatari officials considering an underwater TV station, among other outlandish pitches, as its $200 billion 2022 World Cup approaches
Seven years away and already commanding a reported $200 billion budget in preparations, the FIFA World Cup 2022 has Qatari officials deliberating over proposals for an underwater TV station. Los Angeles–based artificial reef and aquarium design firm Reef Worlds is pushing designs for a $30 million underwater broadcast studio which, post–World Cup, will be turned into a public aquarium. The studio itself will occupy a carved-out rocky cavern on the ocean floor. According to Patric Douglas, CEO of Reef Worlds, Qatar World Cup authorities warmed to the preliminary designs and “the notion of doing the World Cup underwater with sharks swimming around.” In terms of funding, Douglas predicted that it would be covered by broadcasters who want to use the film location as a base during the World Cup. “You could underwrite the entire thing with one Sky or Latin broadcast network, they will pay you enough money to finance this thing,” he told Arabian Business. Qatari officials, who have a generous appetite for the superlative and the submerged, will decide in either July or August whether to greenlight Douglas’ plans. A European real estate agent based in Dubai is developing a collection of three-story properties with one floor submerged as a cross between a boat and a villa. Each unit will reportedly sell for $1.4 million. Meanwhile, Polish architect Krzysztof Kotala is soliciting investors for his plans to build the world’s first underwater tennis stadium. Qatar’s current budget of $200 billion for the FIFA World Cup amounts to an eye-watering $100,000 per capita. This, of course, all comes as FIFA finds itself in a massive corruption scandal, and renewed scrutiny over why Qatar, a country with a terrible human rights record and a very hot climate, was awarded the 2022 World Cup. Should the proposal meet a dead end, Reef Worlds is nevertheless bent on developing “sustainable underwater tourism sites” in Dubai, UAE, and the wider Gulf. The firm recently completed designs for the world’s first underwater amusement park, which is modeled after the mythical city of Atlantis and inspired by motion pictures such as Avatar and Pirates of the Carribean. If approved, the park will be built on The World, a series of man-made islands off the coast of Dubai in the shape of a map of the world.
In December, we told you about Zaha Hadid's plan to build a sand-dune inspired, net-zero, headquarters in the United Arab Emirates for Bee’ah, a waste management company based in the Middle East. Now there's more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11&v=FtuhC_Po7YY The firm's announcement came with plenty of eye candy in the form of glossy renderings, but now, thanks to a very stylized fly-through, we have an even better sense of what Hadid has planned for the desert. Take a look at the video below to literally see the 75,000-square-foot building light up before your eyes. [h/t Dezeen]
The Queen of Swoop, Zaha Hadid, has unveiled her latest project: the upcoming headquarters for Bee'ah, a waste management company based in the Middle East. The roughly 75,000-square-foot structure, in the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, keeps a low-profile in its desert environment by taking the form of the surrounding sand dunes. "The formal composition of the new Bee’ah Headquarters building has been informed by its desert context as a series of intersecting dunes orientated to optimize the prevailing Shamal winds, and designed to provide its interiors with high quality daylight and views whilst limiting the quantity of glazing exposed to the harsh sun," Zaha Hadid Architects said in a statement. The two main "dunes" of the structure rise out of the sand and intersect, creating a courtyard, or what Hadid calls "an oasis." This is intended to create a meeting space that also maximizes indirect sunlight and enhances ventilation. The "oasis" is part of the firm's overall strategy to create a LEED Platinum building that produces zero waste. "Zaha Hadid Architects will collaborate with engineer Buro Happold and environmental consultant Atelier Ten to ensure the project minimises material wastage and energy consumption," reported Deezen. "A ventilation energy recovery system will reduce the need for mechanical cooling systems, while photovoltaic cells will be integrated in the surrounding landscape to provide the building with solar power." Bee'ah will use its headquarters as an educational center that teaches the community about caring for the environment. Hadid won an international competition for the commission last year.
Up-and-coming architect Frank Gehry recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss his Guggenheim museum under construction on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi. The eccentric or idiosyncratic or whimsical structure totals 450,000 square feet, making it 12 times larger than the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is defined by multiple cones that Gehry says were influenced by teepees because of how they remove hot air. The design is also supposed to evoke the domes of mosques around the Middle East. Although that's a bit harder to discern. On Saadiyat Island, Gehry's museum will be joined by other lavish projects from Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, Tadao Ando, and Jean Nouvel. These architects, and their clients, have faced scrutiny for the notoriously bad labor conditions in the region. But back in September, Gehry addressed these concerns in an interview with Architectural Record. In a statement, the architect's firm said, “Gehry Partners has been engaged in a substantial and on-going dialogue over many years now that has involved government, the construction industry, architects, project, sponsors and NGOs." Record added, "Gehry may be the first prominent architect to take steps towards labor reform on Saadiyat Island." If you like, give the video a look, but be warned there's a lot of self congratulations and opining on world affairs.
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the nonprofit arbiter on tall building design, has named its 2014 picks for best tall buildings. Among the winners are a twisting tower in Dubai, Portland's greenest retrofit, and a veritable jungle of a high-rise. The four regional winners are: The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland, USA (Americas); One Central Park, Sydney, Australia (Asia & Australia); De Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Europe); and Cayan Tower, Dubai, UAE (Middle East & Africa). Portland’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building is not a new building. Designed by SOM in 1974, the office tower used a pre-cast concrete façade that had begun to fail by the turn of the 21st century. Bainbridge Island, Washington-based Cutler Anderson Architects and local firm SERA modernized the 18-story, 512,474 square-foot structure that is now targeting LEED Platinum. One Central Park in Sydney uses hydroponics and heliostats to cultivate gardens and green walls throughout the tower, cooling the building and creating the world's tallest vertical garden. OMA’s De Rotterdam is the largest building in the Netherlands, and its form playfully morphs the glassy midcentury office high-rise in a way that’s part homage and part experimental deconstruction. In the Middle East, Dubai’s twisting Cayan Tower (formerly The Infinity Tower) is a 75-story luxury apartment building that turns 90 degrees over its 997-foot ascent. Remarked the CTBUH panel: “happening upon its dancing form in the skyline is like encountering a hula-hooper on a train full of gray flannel suits.” CTBUH will pick an overall “Best Tall Building Worldwide” winner at their 13th Annual Awards on November 6, at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Their panel of judges includes Jeanne Gang, OMA’s David Gianotten, Laing O’Rourke’s David Scott, and Sir Terry Farrell, among others. OMA’s CCTV Tower in Beijing won last year’s competition. Most of the 88 contest entries were from Asia, CTBUH said, continuing that continent’s dominance of global supertall building construction. CTBUH's international conference will take place in Shanghai in September. You can find more about the 2014 CTBUH awards, including a full list of finalists, at their website.
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]” Prince-Ramus, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next week’s facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference, approaches facade design as an integral part of the design process as a whole. That process, in turn, revolves around a concept he calls agenda. “We set out in our projects to figure out what the project’s agenda should be, then we set out to delimit the constraints,” he said. “Then we try to find the embodiment of the agenda that will fit seamlessly within those constraints.” REX’s current projects include a pair of headquarters buildings for sister media companies in the Middle East. The stone-clad towers are covered in retractable sunshades that reference a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. As an example of how constraints can influence facade design, Prince-Ramus cited the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. REX (with OMA) slashed the project’s envelope budget in order to build a theater that changes shape to suit different arts events. The money they were left with, said Prince-Ramus, was about what standard aluminum siding would cost—so they started there. “We made a dummy design where we spent a lot of effort trying to not design something aesthetically, but that we’d put it out to the market and uncover what in the market drove costs,” he said. In Dallas that turned out to be weight, since frequent hail storms require thick siding. REX/OMA developed a facade system of extruded tubes that would protect against hailstones while minimizing the amount of aluminum required. “We made something that was very beautiful and very unique,” said Prince-Ramus. “Certainly if we’d come back to the client with flat aluminum siding they would have said, ‘Put the money back into the facade.'...The success of the facade is why we were able to build a building that’s renowned for its ability to transform.” While the Wyly Theatre facade was shaped by financial constraints, the client’s particular vision informed the envelope for the Mercedes Benz Future Center in Stuttgart. “Part of the collective agenda was that the building should be very transparent, as opposed to museums, which tend to be very cloistered,” said Prince-Ramus. But the automaker also wanted the Future Center, which will display its vision for the future of automobile technology, to be “a beacon for sustainability.” REX’s current solution (which may change as the design develops) is to create a curtain-like sunshade that wraps around the all-glass building. The shade is opaque on one side of the building and nearly transparent on the other, and rotates with the sun’s movements. The curtain is a metaphor for the unknowability of the future: Prince-Ramus recalled the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which says that it is impossible to simultaneously determine the value of certain variables. “The more you know of one, the less you know of others,” he said. “In discussions about the future, that idea seemed really inherent in what they’re doing [at Mercedes Benz].” Whatever the origin of a particular facade design, for Prince-Ramus it always comes back to performance, the standard that for him encapsulates both function and aesthetics. “The more we’ve used the word performance, the more I’m convinced it does have that dual meaning,” he said. “When [they] talk about a high-performance auto, they don’t just mean it goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. They mean it’s sexy, too.” To hear Joshua Prince-Ramus speak next week, visit the facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference website.