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Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi

Contemporary UAE Skyscraper Buildings: Architecture design by Aedas architects

21 Nov 2013

Al Bahr Towers Design


Design: Aedas Architects

British architectural practice, Aedas, has pioneered a new technique that could revolutionise the approach to building in extreme climates. Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi is the first large-scale commercial project in the world to feature a dynamic, intelligent façade that cools or insulates the building in direct response to the sun’s movement.

Al Bahr Towers Al Bahr Towers Abu Dhabi Al Bahr Twin Towers
photos : Christian Richters

Having been commissioned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council (The Council) following an international design project, Aedas’ brief required delivering an environmentally-friendly and sustainable solution to this large scale commercial project in one of the world’s hottest climates.

The 25-storey twin towers reach a height of 150m and offer some 70,000 sq m (753,000 sq ft) of office space between them. The Council has taken full occupation of one of the towers for its new headquarters, which will accommodate around 1,000 employees.

Realising that the key to success lay in managing solar gain, Aedas’ design team conceived a responsive façade reminiscent of the ‘mashrabiya’, a traditional lattice screen found in traditional Islamic architecture.

The end result is a dynamic outer screen that is programmed to respond to the sun’s movement, shielding the building’s eastern side in the morning and moving round westwards with the sun throughout the day. To the onlooker, the effect can be compared to 2,000 umbrellas opening and closing in response to the sun’s rays (click for video footage

The idea of the moving façade was first attempted at the Instituit du Monde Arabe in Paris. It has since fascinated architects but has never been delivered on any large scale. Al Bahr Towers represents the first time this technology has been successfully used on this scale and opens up an exciting new direction in building design.

Aedas was keen to explore the possibilities for combining a contemporary solution to the traditional philosophy of cooling buildings through screening and shading buildings.

The advantage of this approach is the avoidance of dark tinted glass which inevitably restricts incoming light all of the time rather than just problematic direct sunlight at certain times of day. Instead, these dynamic shades let daylight in for part of the day allowing the use of artificial lighting and air conditioning in the interior can be significantly reduced. The result is a 50% reduction in energy consumption within the twin towers and an 80% reduction in solar gain.

Bryan Hamilton, director at Aedas, comments: “This project represents the perfect marriage of technology and design. Not only do the buildings look good, but they are entirely fit for purpose and sympathetic to their environment.”

He continues: “The desire to find solutions that bring about a holistic response to the cultural and environmental context of new buildings is at the core of Aedas’ thinking on how to balance an increasingly globalised way of life with a sense of local and regional identity.”

Al Bahr Towers has received a number of accolades and awards, having recently been listed in TIME Magazine’s ‘Best Inventions of the Year 2012’ and received awards such as: 2012 Tall Building Innovation Award by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; Commercial Project of the Year at the Middle East Architect Awards 2013 and Best Overall Project in the Middle East at the Middle East Architect Awards 2013.

To celebrate the completion of this landmark project, the Project Team has commissioned a book featuring an introduction by the Financial Times architectural correspondent, Edwin Heathcote and photography by Christian Richters. It is available from

Photos: Christian Richters

6 Nov 2013

Al Bahar Towers Abu Dhabi Award

Design: Aedas


Al Bahr Towers designed by Aedas was crowned as the ‘Best Overall Project in the Middle East’ as well as the ‘Commercial Project of the Year’ at the sixth annual Middle East Architect Awards 2013, held on 05 November at The Jumeirah Emirates Towers in Dubai.

The twin towers were commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), one of which serves as its new headquarters.

Aedas enjoyed a hugely successful night, picking up two awards for the landmark Al Bahr Towers which feature the world’s largest computerised dynamic façade. The design of Al Bahr Towers responds to the fundamental issues affecting the corporate standards of a fully glazed building in a searingly hot climate and solves this challenge with the integration of a façade based on the Islamic ‘mashrabiya’, a lattice screen used to diffuse sunlight while keeping buildings cool, without blocking sunlight or views.

Uniquely, its honeycomb structure opens and closes in response to the movement of the sun, reducing solar gain by up to 50%, whilst simultaneously improving natural light inside the towers. The resulting composition delivers an influential architectural project comprising of two culturally and environmentally responsive landmark buildings.

Al Bahr Towers are firmly engaged in an emerging tradition which is keen to acknowledge history and technology, aesthetics and function, the revealing of both meaning and making.

Middle East Architect Awards

Emporis Skyscraper Award 2012 shortlisted – 17 Sep 2013

25 Jun 2012

Al Bahar Towers Abu Dhabi News

Design: Aedas

25 Jun 2012 – CTBUH – Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Names Best Tall Buildings for 2012

First Innovation Award Goes to Abu Dhabi Project by Aedas Architects

Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi won the CTBUH’s First Innovation Award for the project’s computer-controlled sun-screen referred to as mashrabiya* by Aedas Architects

Antony Wood, executive director, CTBUH
“The dynamic façade on Al Bahar, computer-controlled to respond to optimal solar and light conditions, has never been achieved on this scale before. In addition, the expression of this outer skin seems to firmly root the building in its cultural context.”

Al Bahar Towers
image from architects

Al Bahar Towers : CTBUH Award

Al Bahar Towers are a pair of 25-storey towers for the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), rising from a shared podium. The pair designed by Aedas Architects act as a distinctive gateway building to the largest city in the United Arab Emirates.

The Towers feature the world’s largest dynamic façades. Their design concept addresses the Emirate’s aspiration to promote environmental and cultural integrity as reflected in the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan. The architecture is derived from a geometry informed by Islamic design with references to local vernacular most visible in the contemporary ‘mashrabiya’ screen protecting the towers from solar gain.

This screen is dynamic, opening and closing throughout the day to counteract fierce sunlight as this moves around the building. The ‘mashrabiya’ will help reduce solar gain by more than 50%. The sun-screen has also allowed the architects to use lightly tinted glazing and thus to reduce the building’s dependence on artificial light while improving the quality of the internal environment for users.

Working closely with colleagues at Arup Engineers, Aedas’in-house R&D team were inspired by the complex algorithms informing the geometric thinking in Islamic architecture and brought this into a parametric model. This enabled the 1000 moving elements on each tower to be designed with both geometric precision and technical proficiency. Aedas also devised specially written computer software to simulate the operation of the ‘mashrabiya’ on a daily solar cycle.

Peter Oborn, Aedas Deputy Chairman and Project Director “We’re delighted that the Al Bahar Towers has been recognised in this way, particularly as the building reflects the Emirates commitment to innovation and sustainability. It is also a fitting tribute to a terrific team effort by all involved.”

*Mashrabiya is a form of lattice screen shading and a distinctive feature of Islamic architecture from its outset to today.

Al Bahar Towers Abu Dhabi image / information from Aedas Architects

Al Bahar Towers Abu Dhabi design : Aedas

Location: Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE

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