Innovative Architecture—City of Abu Dhabi

8 January 2018 Kingspan Group
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Famous for being one of the most rapidly developing cities in the world, Abu Dhabi has generated some serious opportunities for architectural innovation. As a result, the city’s current urban structural framework plan, the Abu Dhabi Plan 2030, actively encourages the construction of inventive supertall structures.
 
Abu Dhabi’s rapid economic growth and forward-thinking architectural planning have made the city the ideal location for creative structural projects that work upon immense scales.

Below are three examples of buildings that embody the city’s architectural spirit:

The Louvre Abu Dhabi–Architectural cultural district

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In November 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors in Saadiyat Island.
After a ten-year development, it is now the largest art museum in the Arab peninsula. It covers almost 64,000m², 8000m² of which is devoted entirely to exhibition space. Two-thirds of its central museum is covered by a gigantic skeletal dome–roughly 180 metres in diameter. This dome is as intricate as it is immense, incorporating 85 separate pieces while weighing more than 7,500 tons.
 
Brilliantly, each of the dome’s pieces contribute to an overarching geometric pattern. This complex roofing system filters light coming into the museum, creating an idiosyncratic speckled light effect. Designer Jean Nouvel has called this effect the “rain of light”, and has cited the harsh shadows cast by palm fronds as an inspiration.
 
Nouvel is renowned for his audacious manipulation of interior lighting. In 1989, he was awarded the prestigious Aga Khan Prize for Architecture for designing the Institut de Monde Arab. This structure incorporates an automatized metal façade of mechanical oculi—operated by photoelectric cells—that open and close in reaction to changes in interior lighting. More recently, Nouvel designed the Doha Towers in Qatar, which features an exterior skin façade of geometric patterns similar to the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s dome.
 
Significantly, sections of the museums flat roof were landscaped using crushed stone laid within screed, a feature of Arabian architecture. This called for an additional specification — the roofing system was to be overlaid with a polystyrene insulation, which would create a platform for the feature and subsequently would need to hold the weight of the crushed stone. To achieve this, 280 mm thick Kingspan Styrozone N300 was installed. Kingspan Styrozone N300 is a high-performance extruded polystyrene. By using this Kingspan product it has also allowed for better control over the buildings temperature.
 
At least three further institutions are also projected to be developed on Saadiyat Island, including a Guggenheim museum.
 

Nation Towers–Architectural triumph

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The Nation Towers are two substantial skyscrapers located at the southern end of Abu Dhabi’s sweeping Corniche Road. The construction of these towers constituted a joint venture between Arabtec Construction and National Projects and Construction (NPC). These luxurious towers contain apartments, offices, a shopping mall and a five-star hotel replete with both spas and a fitness facility.

Kingspan PalDuct pre-insulated ducting was used in the construction of the buildings. Kingspan PalDuct Panels comprise of a high performance, rigid thermoset insulation core. The insulation core is faced on both sides with an embossed aluminium foil.

The Nation Towers are also home to the world’s highest skybridge.
 
This exalted bridge connects floors 48 and 49 of the respective buildings, coming to rest at an astounding 202.5 metres in the air. The bridge is 30 metres higher than its nearest rival–the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  
 
Astonishingly, the skybridge weighs over 400 tonnes, and had to be installed through three major operations. It first had to be assembled, then lifted into place and finally positioned. Due to its weight, it had to be lifted using computer-controlled hydraulically operating lifting and sliding jacks.
 
These trademark facades, constructed from steel and glass, protrude out from the towers’ main bodies–whereupon they distinguish themselves through strong vertical line-work. These facades are further accented through their tapering podium bases, which recline inwards at the bottom of either tower.
 
Designers WZMH Architects took inspiration from the local environment when considering the towers’ aesthetic character. For example, the towers prominent glass facades subtly bulge and contract, emulating the crests and troughs of beach waves. These facades extend to the peak of both towers, where they culminate in crest-like peaks.

Today the St. Regis hotel runs a presidential suite out of the Skybridge. Renting their Abu Dhabi suite costs a minimum of 35,700 Emirati dirhams per night–approximately €8,200. The suites luxurious floor-to-ceiling windows offer an unparalleled panoramic view of the city skyline, the Arabian Gulf and the waves that inspired the towers’ impressive exteriors.

Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal Building–Development of success

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Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport is set to open in 2019. Construction began on this project, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox Associates (KPF), over 6 years ago. When complete, the Midfield Terminal will be one of the largest buildings in the world, at 700,000m². At its largest point, the terminal’s roof span will be almost twice the size of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
 
The standout architectural feature of the Midfield Terminal is its curved roof, which has been designed to flow effortlessly into 18 steel arches. When complete, the curvature of the roof will produce a wave-like ripple effect, which in-turn will give the impression that the roof is floating, rather than standing on its arches.
 
The terminal’s roof–covering 300,000m² in total–is a massive undertaking. The building was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, and is representative of the surrounding desert landscape. The roof design employs complex curved geometry including tight convex and concave radii. These require careful design and skilled installation to maintain the architectural intent. This roof system can only be achieved using Kingzip Infiniti. Kingzip Infiniti is a site manufactured complex roofing system that has been tailored to meet the visual, weatherability, structural, fire and acoustic requirements of the client. It is Kingspan's largest area single roofing contract, to date.
 
In 2016, Abu Dhabi airport handled 24.5 million passengers. In 2019, when the Midfield Terminal opens, the airport will have an updated capacity of 45 million. This gargantuan increase in capacity will have an irrevocable impact upon the city of Abu Dhabi, where architectural innovation is already beginning to take off.
 
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