LAVA wins comp to design heart of world’s first eco-city

Aug 26, 2009
  • Article by Online Editor

LAVA have won an international competition to design the centre of Masdar, an eco-city city in the middle of the desert, beating out stiff competition from hundreds of entrants, including fellow shortlist nominee and international mega-practice, Kohn Pedersen Fox.

Masdar is a planned city located 17 kilometres from Abu Dhabi. A government initiative, the city is being constructed over seven phases and is due to be completed by 2016. The city centre includes a plaza, five-star hotel, long stay hotel, a convention centre and entertainment complex and retail facilities.

LAVA’s winning design, in keeping with practice’s ongoing fascination with biomimetic principles, boasts several design features that draw inspiration from processes in the natural world. Giant umbrellas, with a design based on sunflowers, are intended to capture the sun’s rays, and then fold at night to release stored heat. They will also follow the projection of the sun to provide continuous shade during the day.

Other innovations of the winning plan include:
• Adaptive building façades with angles that can be altered to offset or optimise solar glare.
• Materials on wall surfaces that respond to changing temperatures and contain minimal embedded energy.
• Water features that are stored underground during the day and at night trickle or flow strongly, triggered by passersby.
• Interactive light poles, inspired by the oasis fire, transform the plaza into a 3-dimensional interactive media installation.
• Interactive, heat sensitive technology activates lighting in response to pedestrian traffic and mobile phone usage.
• Roof gardens integrate food production, energy generation, water efficiency and the reuse of organic food waste.

East and west are fused in the plaza design inspired by both the oasis, as the epicenter of Arabic nomadic life, and the iconic piazza of historical European cities. The organic forms created by the forces of natural erosion in geographical landmarks such as great canyons and wadis are the design inspiration behind the key buildings in the city centre.

After being shortlisted, LAVA teamed up with former AIA president Bob Nation (Sydney/Dubai based Kann Finch group), engineering firm Arup (with whom Chris Bosse previously worked on the Watercube in Beijing), energy consultancy Transsolar, and a team of international experts to deliver their winning design.

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25 Mar 10 at 2:10 AM • Charlie

While the design will no doubt set an example for existing cities, wouldn’t it be more eco-friendly not to build cities in the desert where cities don’t belong?


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