Located on the Persian Gulf at the end of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s fastest growing countries. With a subtropical-arid climate and hot summers, the country experiences violent dust storms and intense heat that requires novel solutions to designing exterior façades. Turning to louvers and screens to create shadows and control solar heat gain, the United Arab Emirates is home to many incredible examples of contemporary screen designs that pay homage to the architectural heritage of the wider Middle East.
The following collection examines screen façades across the United Arab Emirates, projects that take a critical look at shadows and their role in design. Exploring tectonics, sustainability and vernacular construction techniques, the projects also showcase advanced material assemblage technologies. Collectively, these dynamic screens begin to reveal the powerful ways that shadows can be designed.
Standing as two iconic towers in Abu Dhabi, the Al Bahr Towers combine the region’s architectural heritage with state-of-the-art technology. Created as a landmark, the project reimagines the traditional wooden mashrabiya shading screen as a modern, mechanized element which adapts to the movement of the sun using linear actuators.
The HBZ Stadium project was created as a 25,000-seat FIFA-class soccer venue that mitigates the hot desert climate. Formed with a system of passive, parasol shades and palm bole, the stadium maximizes shade and allows air modulation.
Designed as the Siemens’ headquarters in Masdar City, this LEED-Platinum building was made to help create a new model for sustainable structures in the Middle East. A lightweight aluminum external shading system was used to form a tectonic language for the building while minimizing solar gain.
Foster + Partner’s Masdar Institute was made as part of Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City Masterplan. Designed as a piece of the larger prototypical city for sustainability, the project aimed to help improve commuter and resident quality of life. A variety of screens were used to relate to the context and delineate programmatic spaces.
Created as a luxury lifestyle shopping and dining destination, the Galleria on Al Maryah Island is located within a new international financial center. Surrounded by the Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, the design is capped with a curving roof screen made with triangulated and perforated panels.
The LIWA Tower project was designed with sweeping curves, called “Powerlines,” that were created to play with light and shadow. The façade is comprised of 1,000 mass-customized windows that form a screened surface to the glazed tower.
The Yas Hotel project was made as a 500-room, 915,000-square-foot complex that is located in the Yas Marina Circuit of Abu Dhabi. The first hotel in the world to be built over an F1 race circuit, the design features an environmentally responsive skin and a grid-shell structure that crosses above the race track.
Sited on a lagoon island in the capital of the Arab Emirate Sharjah, the Butterfly Pavilion was designed with an ornamental shading roof to recall the surrounding island nature. The complex freeform roof and biomorphic outer shell was made with over 4,000 golden aluminum leaves that vary in size.
The O-14 Tower project is a 22-story commercial tower in Dubai’s Business Bay. Placed along Dubai Creek and a waterfront esplanade, the project’s concrete shell and screen structure is a diagrid exoskeleton that provides striking interior relationships between light and shadow.
SOM’s Cayan Tower was created as a residential high-rise with an incredible helical shape. Linked to the Dubai Marina and Arabian Gulf, the project’s twisting form is clad in pre-finished metal panels set along a recessed sill to minimize direct light penetration.