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The future well being of cities around the globe depends on mankind’s ability to develop and integrate sustainable technology.
Sydney, Australia-based LAVA [Laboratory for Visionary Architecture] has been named the winner of an international competition to design a city center for Masdar – the super green city designed by Foster + Partners for Abu Dhabi, UAE. LAVA envisions Masdar Plaza as an “Oasis of the Future”, highlighting a number of various sustainable technologies while creating an engaging urban plaza that ‘stimulates social interaction’. They’ve focused on adressing three issues which they’ve deemed key to the project:
1. Performance – to demonstrate the use and benefits of sustainable technology in a modern, dynamic, iconic architectural environment.
2. Activation – to activate or operate the sustainable technology in accordance with the functional needs of this environment, 24 hours a day, and 365 days of the year.
3. Interaction – to encourage and stimulate a social dynamic where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population of Masdar evolve.
The major architectural feature of the plaza is a number of lily pad-like ‘umbrellas’, reminiscent of Wright’s dendriform columns in the Johnson Wax Headquarters. These ‘umbrellas’ provide much-needed shade during the day, and further strengthen the ‘oasis’ metaphor by creating a multi-layer canopy with ‘umbrellas’ of varying heights and sizes. These shading devices are not static, however – they open and close, allowing for an unobstructed view of the sky after sunset. LAVA claims the design is based on the sunflower, stating that the ‘umbrellas’ are to be solar-powered – and that part of their function will be to absorb heat during the day, to be released during the cool desert night.
As in the case of an oasis, the Plaza is the social epicentre of Masdar; opening 24-hour access to all public facilities. Interactive, heat sensitive technology activates low intensity lighting in response to pedestrian traffic and mobile phone usage. The Plaza is able to change into an outdoor cinema for international events and national celebrations. Buildings surrounding the Plaza form gorges, evoking mystical comparisons with the Grand Canyon and the entrance to Petra.
The ‘Oasis of the Future’ demonstrates sustainable technology in a user-friendly architectural environment – flexible use of space, outdoor and indoor comfort, and optimum performance.
These large ‘umbrellas’ are not unknown to desert climates. While this design proposed by LAVA is fairly high-tech and cutting edge, similar shading devices can be seen in regions with a similar climate – in particular, I’m thinking of the large shading structures at the Al Hussein Mosque near the Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo, Egypt [images: 1, 2, 3]. While square rather than circular, these structures providing shade for an outdoor prayer space are essentially the same as those proposed by LAVA. I can’t remember, but I think they may even have a specific name? Drop a comment if you know anything more about these ‘umbrellas’, or if you’ve seen them being used in other locations.
All that said, I don’t mean to take away from LAVA’s design, which looks like it could be a beautiful space. The layering of so many of these structures is incredibly visually interesting, while being simple enough to not be ‘in your face’ – I can only imagine that the lighting in the plaza will be incredibly dope with all of these ‘umbrellas’ open.
::view more images of this project at here AMNP’s Flickr page::
::images, info + quoted text courtesy of Laboratory for Visionary Architecture::