Abu Dhabi's 25-story Al Bahr Towers stand at the eastern gateway to the city, where they serve as headquarters for the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC). The mercury can hit 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer in the United Arab Emirates’ largest city and capital, but Aedas Architects, working with Arup Engineers, created an incredible mashrabiya façade that pays homage to traditional Arabian architecture and design. The geometric patterns that comprise this gigantic screen include over 1,000 moving elements that contract and expand during the day depending on the sun’s position - similar to Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe. Construction on the towers is now complete.
The riddle Aedas faced was how to keep the building cool without using massive amounts of air conditioning. Such a sustainable approach to architecture is important to Abu Dhabi, as the city has pledged to develop an economy that can thrive once its oil reserves are exhausted. The solution is a software-driven design that creates an intricate modern version of the mashrabiya, the geometric screens that are found on buildings all over the Middle East.
The Al Bahar Towers’ mashrabiya facade is not only eye-catching, but it’s very effective in protecting the towers from the relentless solar gain that is problematic for many modern buildings in hot climates. While reducing solar gain by 50 percent, the facade also reduces the offices’ dependance on artificial light, allowing the architects to use lightly tinted glazing and overall improving the comfort of the employees who work for the ADIC. The gigantic latticework almost entirely wraps both towers except for the area of the facades facing north.
For ADIC and Abu Dhabi, the Al Bahar Towers are a shining example of how to use the latest in modern technology while rooting a building in its cultural context. Traditional Arabian architecture long helped locals survive under the most extreme weather conditions. As Abu Dhabi strives towards environmental sustainability and cultural integrity, the Al Bahar Towers stand tall as an example of how the new and old can coexist.
Photos courtesy Aedas