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.
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The world's largest space stimulation city is a BIG deal. On Tuesday, United Arab Emirates leaders unveiled designs for a 1.9-million-square-foot Mars simulator designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). When it opens, a team will live in a Mars-like environment under one of the development's domes, subjecting themselves to and conducting experiments on energy, food, and water self-sustenance. To support the research, the simulation will include agriculture testing facilities to study food security, as well as labs for food, water, and energy. The public will be able to visit a museum of "humanity’s greatest space achievements" complete with educational spaces for young aspiring astronauts. The museum's walls will be 3D-printed from desert sand. Emirates News Agency (WAM), the UAE's official news agency, first broke the news. The project will cost approximately $136 million (AED $500 million) to build. "The UAE seeks to establish international efforts to develop technologies that benefit humankind, and that establish the foundation of a better future for more generations to come," said Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the meeting. "We also want to consolidate the passion for leadership in science in the UAE, contributing to improving life on earth and to developing innovative solutions to many of our global challenges." The space city is part of the UAE's Mars 2117 Strategy, an initiative launched this February that aims to build the first human settlement on Mars within the next century.
A raging fire that consumed a luxury skyscraper in the United Arab Emirates on New Year’s Eve is raising concerns about the safety of a number of ultra-high towers that have come to define contemporary Dubai. Just a few hours before midnight last Thursday, fire erupted at the Address Downtown Hotel, a 63-story building near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The flames spread to cover approximately 40 floors in just minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPCL3sNVBcM The New Year’s Eve fire is not the first to break out at one of the city’s super-tall towers. In February of 2015, a fire erupted at an 86-story structure, regrettably named the Torch, which was the tallest residential building in the world when it opened in 2011. In 2012, a large fire gutted the Tarmweel Tower, a 35-story residential building, rendering it uninhabitable. https://twitter.com/AtiehS/status/682617847139418112 In all three instances, the buildings’ cladding panels, which, according to the website Gulf Business, can contain a dangerous mix of aluminum and polyurethane, are likely the cause of the rapid rates at which the fires spread. The chemical combination is also highly combustible in dry, desert air. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EXGvUCIdUc While such cladding is not necessarily hazardous, it can become extremely flammable under specific conditions, and depending on the building’s design. In an interview with The National, Samer Barakat, the chief executive of Alumco, which supplied the panels of the Address building, stated that two-thirds of the buildings in Dubai are covered with non-fire rated aluminum composite panels (ACP). “From our side we complied. We gave all our submissions, there was approval on every submission according to specification,” he told the UAE newspaper. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=mXNMaCBw-Lk By the time the United Arab Emirates changed its Fire and Life Safety Code to mandate fire-retardant cladding for all buildings taller than 50 feet in 2013, numerous tall buildings erected during Dubai’s construction boom had already used non-fire rated exterior cladding. The Address Hotel was completed in 2008. The recently enacted regulations do not apply to existing buildings, however. And while the cost of replacing cladding on skyscrapers built before 2013 with safer materials would be an extremely costly undertaking, the cost of not doing anything—which could include possible demolition and replacement due to severe damages—could be far worse.
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.
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.
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.
A new sports stadium designed by Lebanon’s MZ Architects, though experimental, differs from the glitz and glam we've become accustomed to seeing from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Instead of showing off with dramatic curves and shiny glass, the proposed "Rock Stadium" would be buried in the Al Ain desert and will work with the natural elements, being concealed by the its rocky landscape. Situated within the Jebel Hafeet mountain range, the 660,000-square foot, 40,000-seat “Rock Stadium” is carved into its mountainous backdrop, also using using local rock to mimic the desert’s unique patterns and innate character. From a distance the stadium blurs into its background, but up close visitors are led through grand passageways inspired by the Greek temple of Anahita leading down to the hidden green playing field. At night, beams of light would illuminate the sky above the stadium, becoming an emblem for national events and activity. Architects worked with a team of geologists, stone specialists, and cave experts to determine the project's feasibility. "The original thought was to build a stand-alone stadium but, when I saw the site, I knew it would be perfect to carve into the mountain," architect Marwan Zgheib told The National. "I think it is the dream of every architect to work on a design which focuses on sustainability through design more than through technology." While the Rock Stadium is still only a proposal, Zgheib hopes it could eventually be built. Already, the project won an Emirates Glass LEAF award for Best Future Building recognizing top global design in September. No construction timeline has been announced.
Abu Dhabi’s dizzying building boom slowed down somewhat after the 2008 financial collapse dried up the liquidity that inspires big projects. The damage appears not to have been permanent, however, as the UAE capital will forge ahead with a 24-story speculative office tower—part of a new central business district on Al Maryah Island. Al Hilal Bank is the first private development on the island, which is the subject of a masterplan designed to accommodate a citywide population of 3 million by 2030. The city proper is currently home to just over 600,000 people. But Abu Dhabi’s modern history is already a story of explosive growth. “When we first visited,” said Steven Nilles, the Goettsch partner in charge of the firm’s recently opened Abu Dhabi office, “the site was a strip of sand with a desert fox and some barbed wire.” Now it’s a canvas for ambitious urban planning. The 2030 plan includes light rail and a subway system for the new district, which Nilles called “a critical link” between the city’s three main islands. The building, which will be Al Hilal’s flagship, features three cubical masses slightly shifted as they are stacked, allowing for column-free spaces inside. A transparent three-story lobby will look out to the north, engaging the area’s urban character with the help of pedestrian arcades to the east and west. All ongoing projects on the island have parking below grade, where underground service corridors reserve podium-level development for pedestrians. “We’re creating a whole new urban fabric for Abu Dhabi’s central business district,” Nilles said. Goettsch expects to complete the development in late 2013, at which point the clean slate of Al Maryah Island will provide some perspective on the city’s 2030 aspirations.