Prague-based architecture firm Petr Janda / brainwork studio has won an international competition with its design of the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center, a proposed center that would service the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve located southeast of central Abu Dhabi. Dubbed “To See and Not to be Seen,” the winning proposal blends in with the landscape with an organically shaped building made of a pink concrete material that mimics rock formations in the Arabian desert. To mitigate the region’s intense heat, the proposed visitor center would feature liquid coolant integrated into both the inner and outer building shells as well as lichens that cover the surface of the building to significantly reduce operational costs.
Organized by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency in partnership with Bee Breeders, the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center competition sought building designs that could accommodate a wide range of programming — including an information center, cafe, terrace, souvenir shop, display area for specimens, training center, bathrooms and a car park — and complement the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. The reserve is a 5,000-square-kilometer protected area that is home to around 260 species of birds and other wildlife. Every autumn through spring, the reserve welcomes 4,000 pink flamingos.
The architects’ winning proposal envisions a visitor center with a circular floor plan that eschews the traditional layout of individual rooms boxed in by orthogonal walls. Instead, the barrier-free interior emphasizes the building’s dynamic rounded shape with curved walls throughout the three floors, from the basement level to the roof, where a “pink lake” biotope is located. The unusual design encourages visitors to explore the building much like they would the reserve.
“The main idea is to connect the visitor centre with the reserve’s nature at all levels of the project,” the architects explained. “To create an autonomous environment with the distinct genius loci. Using material and shape mimicry, the building organically connects its appearance with the environment of the reserve. It looks very old and, at the same time, contemporary or even futuristic. It works with the natural connection between the organic and inorganic components of nature, which permeates not only the technical part of the building (cooling and condensation system) but also all exhibition and didactic strategies (living parts of the facades, water elements and indoor life organisms).”
The jury has praised the project for its site-sensitive design; however, it did note that the complexity of the building may prove to be prohibitively expensive to build in its current form.
Images via Petr Janda / brainwork studio