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Award Winning Tower Shows How to Beat the Saudi Heat

Al Birr Foundation4 green
Perkins+Will, the 2010 Architectural Review Future Projects Award winner addresses a real problem.

By the 2300s, scientists say that (unless we reduce carbon emissions) climate change will have rendered about half this planet uninhabitable by humans, as it will be just too hot. Temperatures in the Middle East have long been close to non-survivable, already.
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So the lessons of traditional sustainable architecture for desert regions will be a key to future survivability for some regions. This latticework ‘mashrabiya’ is an example.
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Drawing on this tradition, the Perkins and Will winning entry uses a time-honored cooling feature of Middle Eastern architecture, long employed in traditional architecture. The  ‘mashrabiya’ or ‘brise soleil’ screen allows cool breezes through a latticework that shades a building, by protecting it from direct sun.
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The Perkins and Will Saudi Arabia headquarters for the Al-Birr Foundation is an elegant update, that extends that tradition. The architects create an “mashrabiya” envelope  that shades the sun from the actual building within.
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In this case, the architects made a screen as a separate box that is a large rectangular frame that cools the building sequestered behind it, while allowing views out to the city through the screen. It references several other cooling features of Middle Eastern architecture as well: the spiral minaret, the walled garden. Inside the screen demarcation, greenery abounds on each of the floors that are twisted to allow green roofs.
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The enclosure within dematerializes with height. Because the spiral is rotated to perpendicular by the time it reaches the top of the building, where the balconies are deepest, the building transforms from being mostly surface at its base to being mostly void at the top.

Refreshingly, this building makes no attempt to compete with the ubiquitous ‘shape-making’ architecture emblematic of foolish excess that has characterized recent commercial development in places in the Gulf.

Source: Carboum

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