Ethically, architects and engineers alike have been good at policing themselves to meet their client’s needs through the design process. In the UAE’s design industry predominantly of South Asian architects and engineers, an elite has emerged to respond to the built environment’s strong but slightly waning demands successfully. But why sustainability is essential to long term development in the Middle East that makes it at this conjecture, climate emergency has become not only a challenge but a goal; all had to keep in mind. The said elite is rising to meet such arduous tasks, as highlighted in this article written by Payal of Prasoon Design Studio.
Why Sustainability is Essential to Long Term Development in the Middle East
May 26, 2021
Sustainability is an essential design philosophy that influences the construction sphere within the Middle East. The implementation of green energy, eco-friendly strategies, and sustainable rating measures have significantly affected the way that the region drives development long-term. In fact, sustainability and green strategies have the power to unlock close to US$3 trillion in economic development by 2030, which is why cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are leading the way.
With rising energy demand and increased urbanisation, developers are also focusing on sustainability from a strategic perspective. Along with green materials and natural landscaping, sustainability is being driven right from the planning stage. The top architecture firms in Dubai, such as Prasoon Design, are specialising in planning the right layout, orientation, methodology, and approach to ensure long-term sustainability.
The region has historically focused on introducing new measures and guidelines to implement eco-friendlier design and construction. Using indigenous materials, new technologies, and recycled components, the Middle East’s architects are redefining the limits of sustainability. They are innovating not only on the aesthetics front but also in the longevity and ecological balance sphere as well.
Impacting Policymaking in the Region
The construction industry in the Middle East works within specific guidelines that govern its practices across residential, commercial, industrial, and infrastructure spheres. In terms of policymaking, sustainability is a key driver of the region’s long-term goals and vision. Saudi Arabia and UAE’s Vision 2030 includes plans to enhance renewable supply by 30%, with Dubai focusing on 75% clean energy by 2050.
Sustainability also shapes many of the policies around energy consumption, the use of new technologies, innovative materials, and novel construction practices. Sustainability is helping drive the industry forward by aiding in the formation of longevity-focused guidelines. The Pearl rating system is the ideal example of this, giving developers points for specific objectives that can be analysed and approved during development.
Promoting the Use of eco-friendly Measures
The construction industry is one of the few ecosystems worldwide that can radically transform the scope of sustainability within a region. With the industry accounting for 38% of carbon emissions, it is important to leverage the right construction methodologies and waste management strategies to ensure long-term sustainability. In fact, the construction industry has the potential to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 if it follows the right practices and guidelines for sustainable development.
The construction industry in the Middle East can lead the way in achieving the region’s targets of sustainability, energy consumption, and renewable energy use. Architecture firms Dubai and Abu Dhabi based are actively working with government entities, developers, and construction material suppliers, to ensure that new projects are aligned with the region’s overall sustainability vision.
Improving adaptability to new challenges
Many of the key challenges of the next few decades are going to be around sustainability and energy consumption. With the summer months accounting for 50-60% of energy use within buildings, it is important to design all future iterations of residential and construction projects to be self-sustaining. Whether through solar, wind, or an eco-friendly hybrid model, energy generation and utilisation would have to be optimised long-term.
The circular nature of construction means that developers need to focus on the entire lifecycle of the project. To implement truly impactful initiatives, such as zero waste, recycling, ecological balance, natural landscaping, zero emissions, and resource efficiency, developers need to be adaptable to new challenges. Developers that overcome challenges of the future in the present are also more likely to attract investment within the region for large-scale construction projects.
Innovative Materials Use within the Region
The construction industry is a highly innovative sphere within the Middle East, focusing on using the best materials that are sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and durable. High-performance concrete, nanoparticles, cross-laminated timber, 3D graphene, and other innovative materials are shaping the way for the future of development. The region’s focus on leveraging these new materials is unmatched, with many new projects being designed keeping these high-insulating and low-maintenance materials in mind.
Additionally, innovative materials are easier to store, manage, and dispose of. They are highly sustainable by design and can be recycled or demolished without releasing toxic emissions or harmful compounds in the air. With C&D waste accounting for 70% of total waste generated in the UAE, it is important to use the right materials to ensure long-term sustainability within Middle Eastern countries.
Influencing design aesthetics through sustainability
Some of the most architecturally complex and aesthetically advanced projects are being designed in the Middle East owing to the region’s focus on sustainability. New geometries, shapes, layouts, and styles are being innovated to ensure that projects capture as much natural energy as possible. The balance between ecology and construction is also being promoted through sustainable architecture in the region as well.
From the exterior façade to the interior finishes, the use of innovative strategies is the key to sustainable development in the region. Both active and passive strategies are being leveraged to accomplish the goals of the construction project, with developers focusing on the right techniques to optimise energy management. Through key initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting, recycled materials, re-using of resources, solar, and water management, buildings are emerging both aesthetically superior and eco-friendlier.
Marking five years since the passing of renowned architect and artist Zaha Hadid, Zurich’s Galerie Gmurzynska presents a celebratory and revelatory exhibition of her work entitled “Abstracting the Landscape”.
The picture above is for illustration and is of Ocula.
An Homage To Zaha Hadid: “Abstracting The Landscape” Exhibition At Galerie Gmurzynska In Zurich
I write about conscious luxury, focusing on travel, well-being & art.
Described as the “Queen of Curves”, this Iraqi-British innovator was one of the major figures of late 20th Century and 21st Century architecture and design. Her buildings and interiors always dared to be different and her global legacy reveals her creative and enduring genius. What she achieved is an influential body of work which others look to for inspiration.
Hers was a career marked by recognition for all that she contributed to the development of design and function. Her impact on the built environment was extensive and driven by her fusion of Modernism into her architectural creations. This saw her become the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the only woman ever to be presented with the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Her numerous and acclaimed exhibitions have included “The Great Utopia” at the Guggenheim Museum and Art Basel in both Switzerland and Miami.
Her architecture always evolved as she was never prepared to stand still or to accept anything that would compromise her vision. She was always eager to challenge preconceptions bringing some much-needed refreshment to an architectural establishment that can often appear stale and inflexible. The fact that her many buildings already seem timeless is a testament to her ongoing relevance and her ability to prompt those who follow to strive to achieve such a level of authenticity.
Galerie Gmurzynska has had a long association with Zaha Hadid having highlighted her work in a number of earlier exhibitions. There is therefore an initial poignancy around this collection of models, drawings, artworks and sculptures as it prompts the thought that she has now gone. However, the sheer vibrancy of the pieces quickly dispels any feelings of melancholy and it is a joy to look at and experience what is so carefully set out here.
“When we saw Zaha’s design for the “Great Utopia” exhibition of Russian Avantgarde at the Guggenheim New York in 1992, it took our breath away. And that is what our relationship was about, to implement breathtaking projects ever since. For most she will be remembered as the female architect who broke the glass-ceiling. For her the term “female architect” was irrelevant. For us, as a gallery, her drawings and paintings could be considered works of art, while Zaha never considered herself to be an artist. Zaha was an eternaly curious and artistic minded person with a vision. It is this Zaha that we attempt to present in our current exhibition as an homage to Zaha Hadid.” says Matthias Rastorfer, CEO and Partner at Galerie Gmurzynska
Zaha Hadid’s use of non-figurative forms and shapes fuses technology with art and the clever interplay of light and color combinations show her freshness of vision, creativity and technical expertise. Elements of the exhibition are so “reach out and touch” that they draw both the hand and the eye as they fill the gallery’s floor space. The sinewy contours of many of the works on display seem irresistible and lure both our eyes and hands to discover more. The mixing of media adds depth to the exhibits and there is also the contrast between the modernity on show here as it juxtaposes with the traditional architecture of the commercial building which appears opposite.
The exhibition involved close co-operation with the late artist’s designs team who act as the guardians of her legacy and who seek to preserve and respect her artistic integrity. It is fitting that Galerie Gmurzynska has decided to incorporate key elements of Zaha Hadid’s work as a permanent element of its gallery space. This will act as a reminder and a living memorial of this great architect and artist’s depth of contribution over the length of her career.
Impressive on all levels.
I view luxury lifestyle from a conscious perspective and am most passionate about wellbeing, art and travel. I am the founder of the lifestyle blog her-etiquette.com (follow me on Instagram: @her_etiquette). I also run the consulting firm HER CIRCLE which specializes in sustainable luxury strategies and marketing concepts with purpose. Before becoming an entrepreneur I have worked in Sales & Marketing at Coutts & Co, Deutsche Bank and Hugo Boss. Based between Zurich and London, I travel the world and write about the joy of the journey.
Named after the Arabic word for rectangle, mustatil structures were first discovered in the 1970s, but received little attention from researchers at the time. Hugh Thomas at the University of Western Australia in Perth and his team wanted to learn more about them, and embarked on the largest investigation of the structures to date.
Using helicopters to fly over north-west Saudi Arabia and then following up with ground explorations, the researchers found more than 1000 mustatils across 200,000 square kilometres – twice as many as were previously thought to exist in this area. “You don’t get a full understanding of the scale of the structures until you’re there,” says Thomas.
Made from piled-up blocks of sandstone, some of which weighed more than 500 kilograms, mustatils ranged from 20 metres to more than 600 metres in length, but their walls stood only 1.2 metres high. “It’s not designed to keep anything in, but to demarcate the space that is clearly an area that needs to be isolated,” says Thomas.
In a typical mustatil, long walls surround a central courtyard, with a distinctive rubble platform, or “head”, at one end and entryways at the opposite end. Some entrances were blocked by stones, suggesting they could have been decommissioned after use.
Excavations at one mustatil showed that the centre of the head contained a chamber within which there were fragments of cattle horns and skulls. The cattle fragments may have been presented as offerings, suggesting mustatils may have been used for rituals.
Radiocarbon dating of the skulls shows that they date to between 5300 and 5000 BC, indicating that this was when this particular mustatil was built – and maybe the others too. If so, the monuments would together form the earliest large-scale, ritual landscape anywhere in the world, predating Stonehenge by more than 2500 years.
“This could completely rewrite our understanding of cults in this area at this time,” says team member Melissa Kennedy, also at the University of Western Australia. She says that further south, religious groups became focused in homes, with families displaying small shrines, but the opposite was happening in ancient Saudi Arabia with the mustatils.
There may also have been a relation between the construction of mustatils and the environment. Built during the Holocene Humid Phase – a period between 8000 and 4000 BC during which Arabia and parts of Africa were wetter, and what are now deserts were grasslands. But droughts were still common. Kennedy says it is possible that cattle were herded and used as offerings to the gods to protect the land from the changing climate.
Mustalils were typically clustered in groups of two to 19, suggesting that gatherings may have been broken up into smaller social groups.
“The mustatils themselves are probably associated with an annual or generational coming-together of people who would normally be out with their herds and cattle,” says Gary Rollefson at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, suggesting that these rituals were important for bringing communities together. “But there’s no indication that these guys spent a lot of time around the mustatil.”
“These structures are enigmatic,” says Huw Groucutt at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany. He says they show that remarkable human cultural developments took place in the Arabian peninsula.
But despite all the new findings, there is still much to learn. “People are going to understand these structures even more in the future,” says Thomas. “It’s nice to be at the forefront, but we’re also excited to see what other people find.”
In 2018, France and Saudi Arabia signed a cultural partnership agreement and created the French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula) writes Cécilia Pelloux, Contributor Travel in this Forbes article.
The picture above is of Design displaying the view from within the resort over the landscape of Sharaan “Every urban act is … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA
A New Era In Architecture Jean Nouvel Unveiled Masterpiece Resort In AlUla
17 February 2021
AlUla is a spectacular natural and archaeological region. This unknown site inhabited for millennia is located 1100km from Riyadh in the North West of Saudi Arabia. The region has enjoyed prosperity since Antiquity thanks to the fertility of its oasis. AlUla was a crossroads on the caravan routes of myrrh, incenses and aromatic plants which crossed Arabia from the South. The birthplace of Arabic writing, this immense area of 23,000 km² is the witness of an extraordinary natural and human cultural heritage.
The geological formation of the valley with its lush oasis offers towering sandstone mountains and ancient civilization and architectural sites like the Nabataean from Petra.
For nearly thirty years, Franco-Saudi archeological teams have done intense research inside thousand years old history, from the first human settlements seven thousand years ago to contemporary times.
Last Fall, French renowned architect Jean Nouvel announced his new extraordinary project in the Sharaan Nature Reserve near the Nabataean wonders of Hegra, UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first Saudi archaeological site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage in 2008. Hegra – A 52-hectare ancient city- was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom. It includes more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut into sandstone outcrops. Current research suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Romans after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE.
Jean Nouvel’s works offer a modern design vision on this 2,000-year-old architectural legacy since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions of years old sandstone rock. “The coming together of a landscape and history, the history of past civilisations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece.” said Jean Nouvel. The architect wants to preserve this unique landscape. “AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and its attractiveness which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.” He added.
He is adapting old ways of life to our modern world minimizing the impacts on natural and urban landscapes. To do this, genius Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before, using abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it. Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future. Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both with verticality and horizontality, to reconnect with the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.
The resort will bring emotional experiences from nature, architecture and art. Jean novel invites us to embark on a thousands of years journey where civilisations and geographical strata will be found in every detail of his designs, from the permanent feel of the rocks to the soft comfort of the armchairs, sofa, and seats.
The sound, musicality, harshness, tactility, power and complexity of nature are everywhere, from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, everything becomes an artwork in itself.
Sharaan by Jean Nouvel is scheduled to open in 2023. The resort will feature 40 rooms, three villas and 14 pavilions carved into a sandstone outcrop, each suite having a balcony that looks out across the stunning surrounding AlUla scenery landscape. The hotel’s entrance will be from a circular courtyard that will be carved into the sandstone hillside. From here a series of rooms will be arranged around a central 80-metre high lift shaft.
Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort is a major part of the Royal Commission of AlUla’s strategy to develop in a long term commitment AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and eco-tourism. “These concepts, which showcase Jean Nouvel’s masterly innovation in architecture, underscore our commitment to developing AlUla as a global tourism destination without compromising the history, heritage, and landscape of AlUla. We are a destination built by artists. Sharaan by Jean Nouvel will build on that legacy to become a timeless landscape-architecture that will last forever – a gift to the world.” told Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU.
To learn more about Saudi Arabia. Assouline just released a beautiful book Crafts of the Kingdom: Culture and Creativity in Saudi Arabia curated by author HRH Princess Najla bint Ahmad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
This book celebrates Saudi Arabia unique craft traditions and the master artisans who produce the Kingdom’s rich handicrafts. It highlights the abundant traditions which still exist in each of the Kingdom’s regions while revealing each craft’s historic roots and modern interpretations. A rich portrait of Saudi Arabia as a nation whose cultural heritage and diverse creativity have been proudly cherished, reverently preserved, and profoundly influential from ancient days to modern times.
As an architect who has worked on educational buildings, I cringed at these completely closed boxes, but the openness of the education taught in them won and we enrolled our son in an IB school.-SJK Architects.
We were keen on an IB education for our child for the freedom in learning it oﬀers. We loved it’s focus on a thorough understanding of a subject and analytical skills and not on rote memory, and the broad holistic range of subjects that it oﬀers – one of the most open curriculums available today.
But as we scouted for schools and visited a handful, the irony of the centrally air-conditioned, closed, boxy buildings that IB schools have come to be synonymous with, was not lost on us. IB education is quite expensive and so with it comes an expectation for IB schools to have better infrastructure, one common interpretation for which is equating comfort to air-conditioning.
As an architect who has worked on educational buildings, I cringed at these completely closed boxes, but the openness of the education taught in them won and we enrolled our son in an IB school.
00_Introduction sketch 1
August 2020 has come and gone. This month had been eagerly anticipated by my family – it was the start of the new academic year and the ﬁrst time that my son would start going to a ‘Big’ school! But we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in semi lockdown state. With all kind of human contact being discouraged for the fear of contracting and spreading the infection, all schools are physically shut, and so the academic year started on- line. It feels a bit strange that the start of a child’s schooling is in a virtual environment.
Most teachers and schools have been exemplary in learning the ropes of on-line, remote teaching quickly, establishing systems and working very hard to come up with content that keeps kids engaged on-line. But while parents are happy to have schooling resume, most fret about the prolonged exposure to screens and the sense of isolation that the kids may feel.
The understanding that social skills and friendships are essential for mental well-being and key to learning, was never so acutely felt as it is now. And when normalcy does return, will the kids have adjusting issues, they wonder.
For now, these are just thoughts and worries – safety is paramount and social distancing our armour until Covid- 19 is vanquished.
But normalcy will return. And when it does, the favourite question doing rounds is – what will we take back from this strange period in our lives?
With thoughts of physical safety and mental health being top of mind, I and other colleagues turned to thinking about the type of buildings that would serve as thriving post-Covid19 schools in the metros.
Two great needs stand out-
1- To design buildings that do not encourage infections from spreading:
Research suggests that being outdoors or in well ventilated spaces can dilute ‘aerosols’ (or germs as we knew them in the pre-covid times!) enough to minimize tremendously the spread of any infection.
A building that is designed to work with climate, one that invites sunlight and wind through strategically located openings but rejects heat and rain, may be quite comfortable for at least a certain percentage of the year in a tropical country like ours (studies claim upto 80% of the time in all climatic zones in our country). So ensuring open spaces and natural cross-ventilation to the extent possible maybe the way to go!
And when absolutely not possible to achieve a comfortable environment without air-conditioning, alternative technologies like radiant cooling that do not circulate air for cooling or use of specialized ﬁlters that clean air in circulation could be employed to prevent air-borne infections from spreading.
2- To design buildings for human connections:
Post this isolation that children have been through, the attention would undoubtedly be towards providing environments that deepen human connections and restore or enrichen the social fabric of their little worlds.
Studies indicate that not only do friendships and social relationships strengthen children emotionally and turn them into well-rounded human beings, but also peer-to-peer sharing will most deﬁnitely accelerate learning. Such interactions with peers, often occurs outside the formal space of a classroom – so designing spaces for social interactions is a critical need.
It seems clear that the two responses that emerge– designing buildings with really good ventilation and ensuring spaces for social interactions, are simple yet wonderful principles of design for physical-emotional health and happiness that have been prevalent through all of historic and vernacular architecture, and ones that we at SJK Architects have applied to a variety of projects.
Here’s examining some of our urban projects, ranging from oﬃce buildings to residential homes, and spotlighting methodologies that helped accomplish these principles of health and happiness, ones that can easily be applied to post covid school buildings.
One: Use screens to draw wind into the building without gaining heat:
While the non-north faces of the building receive direct sunlight and are way warmer than the north, it may be necessary to open these up to invite the winds in for proper cross-ventilation. Drawing from the use of ‘jalis’ in vernacular and historic buildings, sun-shading devices such as louvers, ﬁns or screens can be added to such non-north openings, ensuring that direct sun (and, therefore, heat) is blocked and not incident into the inner spaces, while the gaps in the ‘jalis’ can still allow wind in.
1_Nagpur House – Jali
Allowing the screens to be movable can give additional ﬂexibility to open up completely in the winters or in cloudy weather, while leaving them shut when the sun is scorching bright.
4_Nagpur House – External Elevation
[Images 1, 2 and 3- Wooden jalis protect the bedrooms and living spaces of a Family Home at Nagpur, allowing for natural ventilation when possible, keeping the interiors cool, well shaded and additionally ensuring privacy.]
Two: Open up the North for drawing wind into the building and for social spaces:
The north face of the building receives the best shade (in our hemisphere) and is, therefore, the coolest! So, it makes sense to open up the north of the building. One can easily provide windows to draw wind into the building from the north. But, additionally, one can also step out into comfortable, well-shaded courtyards, balconies and other social spaces that can be carved out of the north face of the building. Providing these courtyards with props like amphitheater steps and benches can support interactions.
While designing in cities, one is ever conscious of ensuring that all available FSI is consumed leading to tall buildings with little or no open space available at ground level. So while a courtyard at ground level is often impossible, providing courtyards at higher levels is a useful strategy that can ensure a win-win.
[Image 4, 5 and 6- A north facing, shaded and vibrant courtyard at the 4th ﬂoor of a Commercial Building at Nagpur with an amphi-theatre and overlooking public passages, staircases, projecting meeting rooms and terraces to create a design centered around social gathering spaces and green pockets at every level.]
Three : Tiny courtyards for better social interactions and some fresh air:
Often, in the quest to consume all available FSI, it may be impossible to provide large courtyards. But even an eight feet wide tiny courtyard can become the soul of a building by bringing in day light and visually connecting diﬀerent ﬂoors.
[Image 7- A tiny 8’ x 21’ atrium courtyard within a Family Home at Nagpur. The courtyard visually connects diﬀerent levels of the house and is designed to create a sense of togetherness that binds a large joint family]
Four: The Staircase as a courtyard for cross ventilation and visual connectivity:
Some projects are so hemmed in from all sides that even the tiniest courtyard is impossible. But converting the staircase into a courtyard is still a possibility as we found while designing one of our favourite projects in Bangalore.
The staircase is a vertical connector that is a mandatory part of any building and organizing it, such that it visually connects diﬀerent levels and becomes a conduit for sun and wind, can convert it into an urban courtyard that much like a traditional courtyard can serve as a space for social connections and welcome breaks, with minimal waste of precious ﬂoor space.
(Images 8 and 9- The core of this ‘out of the box’ oﬃce building for Nirvana Films at Bangalore is the N-S connector staircase that slices through the building with a huge skylight above, suﬀusing it with sunlight and natural ventilation.
Five: Use the terraces for social interactions:
The roof terrace is a free of fsi space. If possible, carving into the building to provide small terraces at every level can allow for each classroom to have a small attached open space. But whether at one level or at many, greening up the terrace for the children to use is such a simple possibility! It can bring an additional beneﬁt – the joy of learning from nature!
Six: Balconies for well ventilated social interactions:
Some cities have, very wisely, retained the possibility of cantilevered balconies and double height terraces over and above the permissible fsi allowed for the building. If one is lucky to be in such a city, needless to say, all balconies must be availed for breezy, social spaces.
The lockdown in the wake of Covid 19 has forced us to pause and reﬂect, and simple solutions like the ones described here and perhaps several more are available to design post-covid city schools. These simple solutions that promote better physical-emotional health and happiness align beautifully with the spirit of sustainable development. Buildings and cities that work with climate will consume less energy and lower our carbon footprint. Likewise, buildings and cities that promote social interactions will help provide an emotionally stronger social fabric through better communication and understanding, one that, hopefully, will lead to a more inclusive, fair and tolerant society. So, in promoting our own health and happiness, we can simultaneously nurture the planet and its people – the wonderful i n t e r c o n n e c t e d n e s s of all fates! Sometimes it takes a pandemic to remind us.
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