Oculus Complex in Dubai
- Niko Karintzaidis
Nature provides many examples of responsive systems that adapt to changing conditions, enabling each organism to develop and adapt to complex parameters whilst maintaining clarity. The design of the particular project aims to create a thermally comfortable space with understanding of the local climate, using very little energy. Technically speaking, the biggest challenge in the UAE is the climate. Providing a comfortable indoor area when it is 50 °C outside is extremely challenging.
What shapes the design is the imitation of nature in order to solve a human problem. However, this is guided by the implementation of the engineering principles governing the natural systems and not by morphological mimicry. In order to maximize efficiency, a basic rule identified in nature’s design is followed as principle – the rule of economy.
Purpose is to significantly improve the energy efficiency through bio-inspired innovative approaches to architecture and engineering, along with a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional elements of Arab vernacular architecture. A sustainable environmental concept determines the orientation, layout and design of the building envelope, creating a community building that uses seawater as a cooling mechanism in order to minimize dependence on electricity.
The most famous example of biomimicry when it comes to heating and cooling is ventilation inspired by termites. The underlying principles of biomimicry were investigated, since termite mounds have excellent cooling even in blisteringly hot conditions. The insects accomplish that with a clever system of orientation and natural ventilation. In addition to effective shading and day lighting, the volume’s design encourages natural ventilation of public areas as a cooling mechanism.
The building develops around a large protected courtyard similar to the termites’ central chimney, with all functions revolving around this central space. The main chamber (equivalent to the termite queens’ chamber) – becomes here the Prayer Hall – the most important space for the daily life of Muslim community. Architectural treatment follows a structural system that frees the interior from supporting columns and creates a vibrant unified space, which correlates with the community of a beehive or a termite colony.
The internal cooling pipe networks as well as the external heating water system rely on biomimetics and function as the “veins” of the building, having as a reference natural thermoregulation mechanisms that are designed to return the body to homeostasis.
Cultural aspects and the Islamic architecture’s relation with geometry are combined with mathematical principals that generate natural formations. Such patterns can be seen as mathematical tessellations, consisting of or generated from simple forms. Repetitive geometric patterns are combined, duplicated, interlaced, and arranged in intricate combinations, thus becoming one of the most distinguishing features of Islamic art, similar to pattern formations seen in nature. These form mechanical “mashrabiya” that are not only a traditional architectural feature but also provide an element of climatic control.
A bio-inspired approach is adopted as an efficient way to cultivate energy from the sunlight that is abundant as per the local climate. Solar cells are distributed on the external skin of the building, forming an arabesque photosynthetic carpet.