Check Out These 14 State-of-the-Art Architecture Projects in the Arab World
By: Emiliya Strahilova/Arab America Contributing Writer
Traditional Arab architecture will always look marvelous and full of meaning – it has majesty and abundance of wonderful colors and ornaments, but it also carries the weight of serving and representing the community. The most emblematic constructions from the past are generally related to faith, education, politics or trading. Things haven’t changed dramatically since then, except that nowadays business is way bigger and more important, and above all, international. Technology is developing with the speed of light and in the place of buildings, futuristic cities pop up.
A prominent contemporary vision in the Arab world is combining the classic with the modern – it’s seen in many museums and hotels. Speaking of hotels, this is where the toughest competition takes place. Hospitality establishments grow like mushrooms, especially in the Gulf, and each next one leaves us speechless. So much is invested in originality and luxury and the creators of new projects are provoked to let their imagination run wild. For instance, it’s completely natural and ordinary that the Rosemont Hotel and Residences has its own rainforest and aquarium. The resort opened in 2018 and imitates all the components of a real jungle including the tropical climate. “Back to nature” is a popular concept and we found out that the majority of the most innovative architects working in the Arab countries are striving to be environment-friendly. Here are some of the most fascinating Arab projects from the future.
Masdar City, Abu Dhabi
This is a planned sustainable mixed-use city that will rise near Abu Dhabi International Airport. It’s going to be finalized around 2030. The development is designed by the British architecture firm Foster and Partners and will be home to a number of cleantech organizations including International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Masdar City‘s architecture captures prevailing winds and uses smart techniques for creating the maximum of shades which makes it a cool and comfortable place in the extremely hot summer season. At the same time, the benefits of the sun are also greatly appreciated – harnessing the sun’s rays, Masdar uses clean energy generated on site from rooftop solar technology and one of the largest photovoltaic installations in the Middle East. The city is funded mostly by the Government and is intended to have over 40,000 residents and additional 50,000 commuters working and studying in Masdar when it’s complete.
Beirut Terraces, Beirut
Beirut Terraces is the first new generation skyscraper in Lebanon. This residential building is designed by Herzog & de Meuron and is located in Mina el Hosn — one of Beirut central district’s most prestigious areas.
The brand new tower was covered with plants and vegetation, all floors are with curtains of greener, hanging gardens and perforated slabs shape outdoor terraces that are extensions of indoor living areas and offer residents scenic views. Floor-to-ceiling windows also ensure that natural light enters each room. The vegetated screens provide shade, but more importantly, guarantee privacy for each household. Unfortunately, the building itself was damaged in the August 2020 blast in Beirut.
Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza
The museum is estimated to open in 2021 after its completion and the pandemic. The design of Grand Egyptian Museum is made by the Irish company Heneghan Peng which won a historical architects contest. The new museum will offer its visitors access to the largest Tutankhamun items collection bit is also designed to include the latest technology, including virtual reality. The establishment will also be an international center of communication between museums which will promote direct contact with other local and international museums. The Grand Egyptian Museum will include a children’s museum, conference center, training center, and workshops at similar to the old Pharaonic places.
Located nearby the Pyramids, Grand Egyptian Museum actually resembles them in size and complexity but it’s built on a sand hill in order to protect archeological sights, which made the execution of the project longer and more difficult.
Dynamic Tower, Dubai
An out of this world rotating skyscraper is on its way and it belongs without a doubt to Dubai. Dynamic Tower will consist of 80 independent floors that will change their position directed by the owners of the apartments. This will be the third tallest building in Dubai and the first one that will be almost entirely prefabricated. Architect David Fisher, who owns the idea, says that 90 percent of the tower, excluding the central column, could be built in a factory and then shipped to the construction site. Each apartment will then be fitted to the central column, piece by piece.
Dynamic Tower will produce its own power by wind turbines and solar panels. The project is currently put on hold but it could be finished by the end of 2020.
Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, Doha
This is not the most attractive stadium in Qatar because residents and visitors of Doha are spoilt with more futuristic shapes appearing across the city in the preparation for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. Qatar new stadiums such as Al-Gharafa, Al-Khor, Doha Port Stadium are certainly more eye-catching but Ras Abu Aboud Stadium is revolutionary as it’s the first one that is fully dismantleable – it can be brought to Qatar in pieces, constructed there and then deconstructed and sent away. Just like IKEA.
The 40,000-seat venue is slated for completion in 2021 and will be located in a 450,000m2 site on Doha’s shore, where the use of shipping containers as one of the main building blocks will be convenient. The chosen area is in West Bay which is Doha main business and entertainment spot, in addition the guests of the stadium will have the chance to enjoy splendid waterfront views.
The authors of the design are Fenwick Iribarren Architects who are responsible for many more projects in Qatar.
King Abdullah Economic City, Mecca
“A New Saudi Arabia for the world” is the motto of this ambitious plan. It’s part of the grandiose transformation of the country and it will cost around 207 billion Saudi Riyals. The city that should be completed by 2020 will literally be larger than many capitals in the world and will give jobs to up to a million people.
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) will accommodate both businesses and residents. The architects from SOM who developed the design of KAEC explain that it will be divided into several districts – University, Sports and Leisure District, Residential neighborhoods, Central Business District, Civic District and Finacial Island. The city’s location in the vicinity of the holy city of Mecca and by the shore of Red Sea is strategic. KAEC markets itself as a destination connecting the East to the West through the port. Another advantage of being close to the water is using the winds coming from the sea for generating energy.
Bismayah New City, Baghdad
Bismayah New City is the first achievement of the Iraqi National Housing Program. It’s the largest and the most significant project in the history of Iraq. The city will follow the latest and most innovative trends in construction and architecture and will be a host of 600,000 inhabitants.
Bismayah New City consists of a Central Business District surrounded by residential, educational and business towns. It will have its own administration, institutions and public facilities. The ingenious project is managed by the Japanese based company HANWA and is supposed to be done by 2021.
Ziggurat Project, Dubai
Inspired by the architecture of the pyramidal temple Ziggurat in Mesopotamia, Ziggurat in Dubai adapts the authentic shape to highly advanced technologies. The new structure is totally self-sustainable, green, carbon neutral, and is planned to become the megapolis home of around 100,000 people. If this is not enough, Ziggurat Project will introduce a never seen internal transportation system which will run horizontally and vertically and would make cars unnecessary. Another feature will be a face recognition system for advanced security.
This modern pyramid may seem like a dream but it’s intelligent to a level that might become intimidating. Timelinks, a Dubai-based pioneering environmental design company, has the patent for the project and will probably start the construction in 2021.
King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Riyadh
King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) was ready in 2017. Its hexagonal prismatic honeycomb structures were born in the minds of the legendary Zaha Hadid Architects. KARSARC adopted an unparalleled approach in using the benefits of the wind and the sun and creating shelters with shadows at the same time. Here is how the designers describe outline methods: “Orientated for the sun and wind conditions, the crystalline forms of the prismatic architectural cells gain the height towards the South, West and East to shield internal spaces from direct sunlight, while the courtyards within are oriented to the North and Northwest to bring indirect sunlight into the spaces below.”
KAPSARC building is extravagant but all the factors contributing to its uncommon style, in fact, have useful purposes. For instance, the empty spaces which connect different halls are actually there to promote transparency and encourage informal interaction between researchers and visitors.
Dubai Museum of the Future, Dubai
This is not just another museum – it’s a symbol of something that doesn’t exist yet – our future. Dubai Museum of the Future is a project proposed by the architect Shaun Killa who already has a solid experience in the Middle East. The museum claims to be “a unique incubator for futuristic innovation and design” and should open its doors in late 2020. Most of all, the venue is meant to be a hub for visitors, technology companies, and events. Already, the museum is known for its unique architecture.
Dubai Museum of the Future will be located right next to Emirates Towers and will attract attention by multiple holograms, 3D printings, and robotics. “The $136 million worth museum, as Sheikh Mohammed portrays it, will feature innovation labs and permanent exhibit for future inventions, it will also offer advanced courses and specialized workshops so it may become a destination for the best and brightest inventors and entrepreneurs”, says archdaily.com.
Luminous Drapes, Kuwait
At first sight, Luminous Drapes is just a pavilion at the outdoor plaza of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre in Kuwait. After a closer look though, the beauty and the various possibilities of the architecture become apparent. It’s original and still cost efficient – the idea of the designers from Studio Toggle was to build a modular space out of drapes and scaffolds. The appearance of the pavilion changes constantly and provides an exclusive experience for different occasions and activities. In the night special light effects change the perception of the venue. The project ended in 2018.
Guelmim Airport, Guelmim
Guelmim is a city situated at the Northwestern edge of Morocco and is also called the Gateway to the Desert. Groupe3 Architects, an architecture group based in Rabat, have completed their project of the brand new modern and sophisticated architecture of Guelmim Airport.
The accent in the construction was the “wrapping” of the airport in light-filtering facade made up of panels of multicolored metal-mesh. “The main issue of the project was providing the maximum amount of natural light and ventilation to avoid expensive technical equipment while optimizing the view of the surrounding landscape, which facilitates movement and flow of the building’s users”, according to the progressive architects.
The new look of the Guelmim Airport is reflecting the local aesthetic styles but is also incredibly efficient thanks to the metal glazed surfaces that protect it from the intense sunlight.
University of Laayoune, Laayoune
The new design of the Technology School of University of Laayoune is part of the decentralization policy of universities centers in the different regions of the country. The architects in charge of the project Saad El Kabbaj, Driss Kettani, Mohamed Amine Siana describe it as a layout of various buildings which are fragmented to allow maximum natural ventilation and lighting and are connected by a set of external paths, squares, covered squares, mineral gardens that justly enhance the notion of urbanity.
The architecture is solid, geometric and plays with the contrast-ocher-exterior and interior-light. Different sun protection devices are used: brise-soleil, double skin, protected walkways etc. The materials used are minimized to emphasize the abstraction of the whole while meeting the need of sustainability and easy maintenance.
Kharayeb Archeological Museum, Kharayeb
Kharayeb Archeological Museum in South Lebanon is a symbol of the Lebanese historical and cultural heritage. Shiogumo, a company that focuses on contemporary environmental designs, developed the original design of the museum.
The main concept of the architecture is to divide the archeological site into separate pavilions placed around the main entrance axis – The Exhibitions Pavilion (A), The Administration & Amenities Pavilion (B), The Café (C) and The Main Gate Pavilion (F).
The most fascinating part of the place will be the avant-garde exposition of a significant collection of thousands of small terracotta figurines which will be presented in treelike columns. The figurines will be illuminated and protected by a glass in the middle which will make them appear floating.
Oman Botanic Garden, Muscat
Last but not least, there is the project of the future Oman Botanic Garden. It’s planned to be among the largest botanic parks in the world. It will be very close to the capital of Oman, Muscat, and it will represent the entire flora of the country. For that reason, it’s going to be a pioneer because no other botanic garden in the world has ever showcased all the plant species of its home country.
As an establishment with strong ties to ecology, Oman Botanic Garden comes with a design that will proclaim sustainability and environmental awareness. The internationally known companies Arup and Grimshaw are responsible for the vision of the garden and its architecture. Here are some of the details around the project under development they have revealed so far: “With water such a precious resource, particularly in the region, Arup has developed a strategy for irrigation. Water is sourced sustainably and not a single drop is wasted. Passive and active shading, UV light controls, cooling and plant irrigation are integrated throughout the gardens. Building form, shape and materials have been considered and selected in response to atmospheric conditions and the natural topography.”
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