Abu Dhabi Building Responds to Environment

May 1, 2008
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority's new corporate headquarters was cited as the "Best Commercial/Office" building at last week's Cityscape Middle East Real Estate Awards 2008, which celebrate excellence in real estate development and investment in the Middle East and North Africa.

A panel of internationally acclaimed industry professionals was assembled to judge the entries. Overall the entries were judged on their contribution to world architecture culture, invention, and imagination, as well as respect for people and environmental awareness in the region's emerging and developed countries.

The ADIA Headquarters (completed in 2007) is located in Abu Dhabi's heavily landscaped Corniche waterfront, a green zone that has earned the metropolis the title "Garden City of the Gulf." It fulfills the client's request for a building that was open and welcoming, a symbol of the bank's commitment to transparency in its transactions. Billowing sails and shifting sand dunes inspired the curving forms of the tower, creating a new and dramatic profile on the Abu Dhabi skyline.

"The design subtly echoes themes found in traditional Islamic architecture, while also expressing the dynamism of 21st century Abu Dhabi and its role in international commerce," said David Leventhal, KPF Principal in Charge of design. "We are particularly honored to receive an award that recognizes the building's contribution to the city."

The ADIA headquarters site was segregated from the historic city centre of Abu Dhabi, but the building now reconnects it to the city. Its slim stair tower creates a dialogue with the slender minarets of the adjacent mosque, providing an intriguing blending of modernity and tradition. The massing is simple: a vertical plane folded three times to create two finger-like wings enclosing an atrium. The wings contain offices and open plan areas, and enclose an atrium soaring 150 meters, which incorporates social spaces and serves as an extract chimney for stale air. The atria gathering spaces are a series of sky gardens, in the Islamic tradition of planted spaces within buildings. Indeed, these "gardens in the sky" become an extension of the green urban parkway of the Corniche.

The building is alive and responsive to natural forces. Its "active" façade comprises three layers: a low-e-coated, double-glazed outer skin, a single glass internal skin, and a solar-controlled blind in the cavity. The fabric blinds respond to the position of the sun; they close as the sun strikes the façade and open when the façade falls into shadow. 

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