Italian firm Barberio Colella Architetti and architect Angelo Figliola have unveiled a futuristic vision for an urban oasis in Abu Dhabi that combines cutting-edge technology with low-tech systems to stay naturally cool in extreme climates. The conceptual project — dubbed Urban Dunes — uses locally sourced sand as the main building material, which would be 3D printed in stereotomic blocks of sandstone. In addition to providing passive cooling, the oasis would also pay homage to the region’s culture with intricate and elegant spaces that mimic the traditional architecture of Abu Dhabi.

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rendering of interior space with curving, perforated ceilings

Designed to span 1,000 square meters, the Urban Dunes project features the tagline “rethinking local sustainable models.” The proposal “started from the deep awareness of the climatic context of Abu Dhabi’s and the Emirates’ traditional architecture, such as elegant vaulted spaces, vernacular shading devices and cold-water basins,” the architects explained in a press statement. As a result, Urban Dunes’ sculptural, sand dune-like form is integrated with iconic elements such as mashrabiya, vaulted spaces, water basins, fountains and palms.

Related: Mixed-use complex aims to minimize heat gain with greenery in Saudi Arabia

rendering of dune-like building lit from within at night

For adaptability, the architects have proposed a modular design to fit a variety of spatial settings. The basic module, a square, can be extended to create everything from an L-shaped layout to a courtyard. Each module would be made from 3D-printed blocks that stack together to create a vault with a thickness of 55 centimeters that, together with the heat-reflective cool pigments mixed into the sand, help protect against solar heat gain.

rendering of palm tree growing inside a building

The vaulted spaces below are also optimized for natural cooling with elegant mashrabiya, a type of perforated window screen to enable natural ventilation. The incoming airflow is cooled by the water basins placed around the interior as well as the two waterfall fountains and palm trees in the center. Earth pipes are laid underground to feed water to the fountains and basins.

+ Barberio Colella Architetti

Images via Barberio Colella Architetti

rendering of pools and palm tree inside building