Conforming to the infinite circumference of the circle, the makers of this architectural marvel transfigure the brief of a regular commercial building into the most sought after skyscraper in the world.
To search for that fallow form and then finding it in the earnest everyday geometrical shapes is one of the most intriguing ideals in architecture. Flanking the borders of Abu Dhabi on the Al Raha Beach, the Aldar headquarters is recipient to the breathtaking vistas of the city and the sea. Designing for the capital of UAE characterized by modern sky-high structures, MZ Architects founded by Marwan Zgheib were determined to create an iconic structure on par with its equivalents, whilst retaining classical architecture in its purest forms. To that effect, it was the inspiration derived from a simple clam shell clubbed with the perfection and rotundity of the circle. While the organic element helped decipher the form, the theory adopted to balance the colossal disk was based on the veteran golden section principle. As seen in Greek temples and even in bodies of plants and animals, the aesthetic ratio segmented the circle into a pentagram which positioned the two points of stability at which the circular facade would connect with the ground to achieve the perfect balance.
Embodying the typical elements of a skyscraper, Aldar HQ is very unlike one, particularly from the exterior. It is a coalition of two peripheral disks linked with strips of ribbed glazing, structurally fastening the two together. The 23 storeys housed within the three facades of the roofless structure are a seamless tie up exhibiting the structure as a single whole. The bulge on the external facades are toned down with the framing of a triangular diagrid network of steel members adding a new dimension to the comparatively planar frame systems implemented locally. Despite the original orientation of the building intended in the north south axis as stipulated by the Master Plan of Al Raha Beach, the latter design analysis led to an east -west positioning of the orbicular structure. The decision was unanimous and it was purposed for a per diem reflection of the suns rising and setting on the buildings translucent apparel.
After an exhaustive structural analysis of the podium and the overhead tower through the exchange of engineering data and advanced 3D modeling softwares, the foundation work was laid a month later. The concrete members including columns, stairs as well as bathrooms were prefabricated in addition to the use of an Airodek system that helped speed up the work on site.In an attempt to avoid the use of concrete in the construction of the cantilevered structure of a 25m span that would be time consuming and costly, a diamond shaped steel frame or the diagrid was introduced for the first time in the UAE in the making of the semisphere structure. This offered structural stability to the visually elusive form, making it column free with an augmented amount of flexibility in the spaces within.
Another novelty in design technology is the evolution of the facades which uses an inventive toroidal geometry to derive a perfect circle in elevation. This ensured a standard size for the panels on each floor in relation to the symmetry maintained at the top and bottom with the X and Y axis respectively. Recycled glass, steel and concrete make up for most of the exterior fabric in addition to a series of tubular steel beams forming a lattice grid of wedge-shaped openings sealed with translucent glass. The convex surfaces of the identical front and rear sides were a task to erect into the frame of the diagrid network that was almost like working on a puzzle with the triangular glass infills dominating the structure.
Abu Dhabi's premire sustainable structure has given due importance to the USGBC LEED design guidelines as displayed in their approach to the design, the furnishing of recycled materials, the installation of a cooling plant as well as water conservation.The structure maximizes on daylighting strategies reducing the building's overall energy requirements. The Aldar HQ furthermore boasts of a first of its kind fully automated vacuum waste collection system that reuses waste products from the building. The interiors are a mirrored reflection of the intersected convex exterior. A deluge of natural light filters in through the crystal clear glazed panels and the exposed frames of the steel diagrid system bring in an element of fun to the spaces enclosed.
What appeals the most about this contemporary masterstroke is not just its bewildering form and homogenous clad exterior, but the subtle reflection of the city of Abu Dhabi in perhaps the world's largest mirrored facade, giving it the identity that it was foresighted to possess.
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