LOW-ENERGY | HIGH-RISE

Model of skyscraper

by David Ling (MArch '20) — Recipient of second prize in the SKYHIVE 2020 Skyscraper Challenge

In cities with extreme climates such as Dubai, energy consumption is mostly spent on keeping spaces cool; however, this condition is reflective of a more significant problem associated with the generic all-glass developer’s condos common to the region. In Dubai, residential architecture is conceived as ‘standing capital’ instead of as site-sensitive places for dwelling. This project re-imagines the low-energy residential high rise as a holistic relationship between wind, light, shadow, and culture. It aims to expand the definition of architectural environmentalism by including place-specific aesthetic and atmospheric concerns alongside thermal regulation and energy-use.

hand holding model animation
Click image to view Passive Cooling Model animation

This ambition is realized through a deep relationship with light and wind. As the carrier of both heat energy and architectural atmosphere, the light of a place has long shaped the built environment of vernacular cultures. In reference to such practices, this project engrains its relationship to the site’s light and wind into its hollow concrete structure, which acts as a passively cooled thermal mass while imbuing the dwelling spaces with a sense of thickness and intimacy. Its narrow slab-like massing orients the spaces to receive optimal prevailing winds, which both passively cool the thermal mass and provide cross ventilation through each unit.

At every step, the typical developer’s condo solutions are replaced with ones appropriate to the site and with the sensibilities that emerge when residential units are treated as places for living, rather than for selling. Shadow and ambient light characterize the atmospheric expression of interior spaces, while boundaries between inside and out are softened with respect to vernacular practices of dwelling in the liminal zone. As Dubai matures from an international playground to a diverse economy with a growing middle-class, it is due time to reconsider its built environment and what it means to dwell in this unique city. This project is a proposal for a uniquely Dubai architecture.