Sun Study : The study of the solar path at the project location allows the correct orientation of the building for optimum controlled natural light influx throughout the day Wind Study : The mean average wind direction in this area provides continuous natural ventilation and has been taken into consideration for the building design. Visual relationship to natural elements in project site vicinity Embedding the project into the topography of the project site Adaptation of landscape contours to develop the building mass Locating the building’s zero level : Building volume has been carved to embed the building into the landscape without subduing it. Shaping the exterior elevation : Determination of size and shape of façade openings Developing the façade: Interpretation of sand dunes as integrative openings in building façade. Interior design : The exterior landscape, textures and materiality are reflected in the interior design. Distinct colour palettes and subtle lighting zones imitate the changing light conditions, allowing for shade and influx of sun light in specific areas throughout the day. Smooth, rough and other textured surfaces create haptic and visual context to the exterior. The carefully placed glazing controls the light influx and guides the sun path through the interior as the sun slowly moves around the building. Solid sandstone walls absorb excessive heat and slowly release the day’s warmth throughout the night to provide a stable climate within the building. Massing study: 3 Mass rotation & orientation : Respecting the site’s topography, the building levels have been rotated to optimize and shield the building’s orientation towards the sun and the prevailing natural context in its vicinity. 4 Environmental integrity : The building’s volume has been carved out to carefully ease the mass into the ground following the natural slope of the site. 5 Oasis and farm extension : Inviting the oasis into the building by accommodating for landscaped space and terraced greenery elements, incorporating date palms, desert shrubs and citrus trees naturally occurring in the region 6 Shaping the building : Respecting the unique character of the project site to let the building’s solids and voids follow the natural slopes. The pool has been located in a favourable position according to the sun path. Design language: Building a symbiotic relationship between the exterior and interior by mimicking the textures and shades of the surrounding desert landscape. The natural slope of the project site is reflected in the building interior levels and provides adequate context of location inside the building and on all levels. Integration of natural cross ventilation throughout the building has been achieved by following the ancient برجيل (malqaf - wind catcher) concept prevalent in this region, guiding cool air from the lowest level and releasing warm air at the highest level of the building to allow for continuous natural cross ventilation. Structural design methodology: The selected structural design methodology responds not only to the climatic austerity of the environment but also integrates sustainable aspects and carefully selected materials on the exterior and interior surface serving five distinct design purposes: Protection from natural elements: The exterior skin of the building has to withstand dramatic temperature shifts in the exposed desert climate. Durability and resilience must be the main qualities of the exterior protective layer of the building. Solidity: The building shell not only protects from climatic changes but also serves as a sustainable buffer element to absorb the extreme desert heat during the day and slowly release its accumulated warmth during the cold nights to maintain an even climate within the building. Conservation of natural resources: The landscaped and sloped ceiling pans, which form part of the roof design collect dew during the night which nurtures the embedded vegetation and provides surplus collected water to the pool and surrounding oasis vegetation. Structural integrity: The middle layer has been developed as a reinforced concrete waffle slab to carry the weight of the roof – ceiling structure and provide additional mass to its heat absorption capacity. The method was chosen to achieve a single layer, smooth roof system without the need for additional beam and column support disturbing the open space interior design concept. Interior surface: The interior ceiling surface comprises of textured sand stone seamlessly connecting the ceiling to the walls and floor to create a homogenous space with flowing visual lines. The protective quality of the sandstone surface inside the building intensifies the cocooned sensuality of the interior space, enhanced by carefully placed ambient lighting, drawing the eye towards the window glazing, which opens up into the valley towards the open horizon.
AIR-7455- Architects in Residence – Design Concept
The design philosophy inspired by the rich and complex history, natural landscape and desert climate, which over thousands of years created a unique place with strong character, in close proximity to Hegra, a UNESCO heritage site in the same valley.
With these big and ancient shoes to fill, we were excited to embark on the Alula design story and through thorough research and free-flowing ideation. The visual design language slowly emerged, as we were able to define the 3 guiding design principles for this location:
1. Visual relationship to natural elements in project site vicinity
2. Embedding the project into the topography of the project site
3. Adaptation of landscape contours to develop the building mass