Masdar Plaza

Giant umbrellas, with a design based on the principles of sunflowers, will provide moveable shade in the day, store heat, then close and release the heat at night in the plaza of a new eco‐city in the United Arab Emirates.

The ‘sunflower umbrellas’ are one aspect of the winning design by the international practice Laboratory for Visionary Architecture [LAVA] for the city centre for Masdar in the UAE the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city powered entirely by renewable energy sources. Masdar is a planned city located 17 kilometres from Abu Dhabi. A government initiative, the city is being constructed over seven phases. The city centre includes a plaza, five‐star hotel, long stay hotel, a convention centre and entertainment complex and retail facilities. LAVA won the design in an international competition. Masdar City is the world’s most  restigious project focusing on sustainable energy design. It is the city of the future and a global benchmark for sustainable urban development. LAVA believes in the MASDAR slogan “One day all cities will be like this”.

The solar powered ‘sunflower’ umbrellas capture the sun’s rays during the day, fold at night releasing the stored heat, and open again the next day. They follow the projection of the sun to provide continuous shade during the day. The sunflower principle is eco‐friendly and can be adapted to anywhere in the world – it opens opportunities for outside living, even in the desert. ‘The entire city is car‐free with a magnetic public transport system includes individual pods that drive you to your destination using solar power.

Some other key innovations of the winning plan include:
• Building façade angles that can be altered to offset or optimise solar glare.
• Materials on wall surfaces respond to changing temperatures and contain minimal embedded energy.
• Water features can be stored underground during the day and at night trickle or flow strongly, triggered by passersby.
• Interactive light poles, inspired by the oasis fire, transform the plaza into a 3‐dimensional interactive media installation.
• Interactive, heat sensitive technology activates lighting in response to pedestrian traffic and mobile phone usage.
• Roof gardens integrate food production, energy generation, water efficiency and the reuse of organic food waste.
The idea behind LAVA’s concept is the use, inspiration, and adaptation of nature and our plans combine innovative design and sustainability. 

East and west are fused in the plaza design inspired by both the oasis, as the epicentre of Arabic nomadic life, and the iconic piazza of historical European cities. The organic forms created by the forces of natural erosion in geographical landmarks such as great canyons and wadis are the design inspiration behind the key buildings in the city centre.

After winning stage 1 in January 2009, LAVA teamed up with the Sydney/Dubai based Kann Finch group, engineering firm Arup (with whom Chris Bosse previously worked on the Watercube in Beijing), Transsolar (worlds leading energy consultancy), and a team of international experts. Executive summary
The future well being of cities around the globe depends on mankind’s ability to develop and integrate sustainable technology. Masdar City is the city of the future; positioned at the forefront of integrating sustainable technology into modern architectural design. Rome, Athens, Florence; most great historical cities have had the plaza, forum, or square at their epicentre – where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population evolved. 

Equally, the centre of Masdar will be an iconic beacon that attracts global attention to sustainable technology. LAVA sees Masdar Plaza as “The Oasis of the Future”: a living, breathing, active, adaptive environment; stimulated by the social interaction of people, and spotlighting the use and benefits of sustainable technology. LAVA’s design proposal focused on the delivery of three key issues:
1. Performance – to demonstrate the use and benefits of sustainable technology in a modern, dynamic, iconic architectural environment. 

2. Activation – to activate or operate the sustainable technology in accordance with the functional needs of this environment, 24 hours a day, and 365 days of the year.

3. Interaction – to encourage and stimulate a social dynamic where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population of Masdar evolve.

Description by architects


10 photos and 3 drawings

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