Feb 042012

If there is genius in the design, it may rest in its approach to heat gain

“Garden and the Tower” is Atelier Thomas Pucher’s winning design for the headquarters of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to be built in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The design is envisaged as “a global sign, made of light.” The tower, very much the centerpiece of the design, will have a textile skin which, if we understand the design intent, will not only let sunlight and daylight in by day (an environmentally friendly way of illuminating the interior) but intentionally let artificial light out by night, to dramatic effect should the visualizations prove remotely accurate. The designers’ approach to managing heat gain suggests that there’s beauty in the function too.

As the name implies, the tower is not the sole facet of this design, which is best thought of as a campus rather than a single construction. The 160 m (525 ft.) tower, which will house workspaces, may be the focal point of the design, but surrounding it are gardens with both internal and external spaces which are designed to “interweave” into one another (architects are obsessed with getting you indoors without your noticing – I am yet to find one who has achieved it).

The predominant feature of the garden’s design are its “floating waves of concrete and drop-shaped basins,” inspired by sand dunes, but in night time renderings almost resembling friendly eyes, peering out of the darkness. These concrete canopies rise out from the ground so that both indoor and outdoor conference spaces are available, broken up by pools of water, which will also be illuminated by night.

If there is genius in the design, it may rest in its approach to heat gain. Atelier Thomas Pucher acknowledges that architects seeking to design low-energy buildings that cope with the sometimes searing heat of tropical climes need only look into the past for answers – or at the very least inspiration. Architects have been using passive means of heat control for centuries, though the methods employed in this design are anything but simplistic.

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