Walk Off Jetlag in Abu Dhabi’s Whimsical Helix Hotel
Here’s yet another swimming pool with a scary view: 8 stories below this glass bottomed swimming pool lies the ocean. If taking a few laps in this pool doesn’t chase away that jet lag, I can’t imagine what will!
New York’s Leeser Architecture has just won the design competition for this hyperfocused hotel for Abu Dhabi, UAE. Relentlessly focused on keeping you aware of your surroundings; this hotel is the anti-hotel. This is a hotel that is not boring, not lulling, not like just an extension of the air-deprived airplane that got you there. This hotel…
gets you walking, for starters. Around and around its circular walkways; that gradually tilt you up to the floor that you need to get to.
And that’s when you are not running on this open air running track. (But isn’t it really hot in Abu Dhabi? Is an open air running track actually a practical idea here?) Indeed – the architect suggests that the track is “an unexpected luxury that fit vacationers can enjoy in the cooler months.”
Unlike in most luxury hotels with their boring banks of elevators, you walk everywhere you need to go in the Helix hotel:
As the floor rises there are continual changes in width and slope, suggesting the curves that winding streets take through ancient villages. Yet the comfort of this familiar human scale is contrasted by the extreme modernity of this concept with its infinite circular ocean views.
For example; to see small figures in the hotel’s own distance, arrayed like this – looping out against the distant horizon, is going to be a visually arresting experience that we as yet have no architectural precedent for.
In the sub-lobby, a dynamic glass wall is built from the base of the second floor down into the water. The wall acts as a curtain would, opening when the weather is cool enough and closing when it is too hot for exposure to the desert air.
For sustainability, Leeser worked with green consultants Atelier 10 to use the best possible conditions and materials for heat and energy conservation: so cold ocean water supplies an eight story waterfall through the central atrium that cools the interior and maintains interior climate and humidity levels.
This central waterfall minimizes heat inside the hotel by simply filtering the abundant onsite cool ocean water throughout the hotel floors to create a reverse waterfall.
The ocean also cools diners in the restaurant below the lobby, where the bayâ€™s waves are so near to the floor plate that they lap up onto the edge of the restaurant inside of the glass curtain wall.
Named after the Helix for its organic biomimicry of the helix shapes of spiraling floors, the hotel reflects back the circular loop themes of horizons at the ocean: the structure literally loops out partially over the water.
At the entry, valets drive clientsâ€™ cars into the car park, which, rather than being predictably above ground or underneath the hotel, is situated instead under the bay. Cars are literally driven into the water.
By Leeser with ARUP (for structural and mechanical design) and Atelier 10 (for sustainable design)