Students at the University of Nottingham have designed a skyscraper for Abu Dhabi inspired by sikkas, the narrow alleys between buildings in old Middle East cities.
The project was designed by Alexandre Carrasco and Omelmominin Wadidy, Masters in Sustainable Tall Buildings Course, Department of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Nottingham.
The vertical interpretation is said to create comfortable spaces which are shaded from the harsh desert sun and wind, and suitable for circulation and socio-communal activities – and courtyards found in traditional buildings of the region.
In the tall building design the traditional corridor is eliminated and instead the building uses a series of multi-storey stacked sikkas which open to the outside where they meet the building perimeter, thus framing key views and allowing for natural ventilation of circulation and social spaces.
These sikkas link to apartments, but also to a series of six-storey courtyards which act as the social hub of the building, creating gathering spaces where people can meet and children can come to play in the shade.
This forms eight stacked communities, with the additional facilities of a library and retail facilities at ground level, and a spiritual space for prayer and contemplation at the building’s apex.
The apartments themselves are influenced by the needs of local inhabitants as they are designed to accommodate larger extended families typical of the region. They are duplex in design creating private spaces on the upper floors away from the sikkas and courtyards below.
The façade rejects the fully-glazed tall building model, so prevalent in the region, and instead consists of a mixture of thin transparent and opaque elements, with the aim to emphasise the building’s elegance and verticality.
After significant testing, the transparent elements were designed as being 0.6m wide – wide enough to allow for good views, but thin enough to reduce unwanted solar gain when used in conjunction with 0.4m projecting concrete fins.
Focus was given not only to the environmental performance of the façade, but also its impact on the quality of light and experience of the interior, with thin shafts of light moving across spaces reminiscent of vernacular Middle Eastern architecture such as souqs and mosques.