Just by looking at the proposal of Petrjanda/Brainwork it’s easy to understand why they won the international architecture competition for the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center. The main idea behind the center, which hopes to welcome scholars and tourists from all over the world into the protected area of the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, is to connect them with the beautiful surroundings of the same.
With that in mind, the Petrjanda/Brainwork team proposed a building that, through the mimicry of the materials and shapes, fulfilled the mission of introducing the visitor into the wonders of a unique natural environment, but from an organic perspective that would allow them to see everything without being seen and without disturbing the environment.
The timeless design, which at the same time seems to be old and futuristic, is the first thing that catches the eye when it comes to this project. This is a building with an unusual spatial composition intertwined in the shape of an O and an S with a circular floor plan, which naturally leads visitors to move through its creases and gradually discover the major aspects of the building and its interaction with the reserve.
That means this isn’t a building that works with two-dimensional floor plans. The bet of Petrjanda/Brainwork for the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center is more leaning towards a celebration of a natural world that is three-dimensional. Thus, it has a curved arrangement shaped as a snail that allows a barrier-free movement around and inside the building.
When architecture takes advantage of nature
The Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center will be a 500-square-meters building that hopes to become both a reference and an iconic place when it comes to this type of constructions. Merged with the surrounding location, this facility works with the imagination of the viewer.
So, its shape can be described from thousands of different perspectives which will certainly turn it into a unique place in the world. Its structure, explicitly geomorphic or zoomorphic, can either be perceived as a sleeping flamingo, or as one of the many rock formations in the Arabian desert.
With that in mind, it’s easy to understand that the design of this building aims to recreate the connection between the organic and inorganic components of nature. Such a connection can be seen in a tangible way not only in the technical aspects of the building (cooling and condensation system), but also in all the exhibition and didactic strategies it includes (living parts of the facades, water elements, interior life and organisms).
All individual sections of the center are intertwined through numerous surprising situations that achieve a complex effect and spontaneous transfer of information to visitors. This means that the building is conceived as a center that, on the one hand, contains museum elements and on the other, it’s a sighting point.
An environmentally friendly building
One challenge that the architects had to face was the extreme heat of the location. For this reason, Petrjanda/Brainwork took advantage of nature itself to create an innovative solution for cooling.
During the day, the interior circuit is supplied with cooling water, which refreshes the entire interior concrete housing of the building and guarantees a pleasant cooling of the interior space through indirect evaporative cooling with the appropriate natural moisture effect. During the night, the water stored and heated during the day is pumped to the outside circuit below the surface of the building housing, where water cools down with the evening’s air. As if that wasn’t enough, this condensation also irrigates the lichens that grow on the surface of the building.
This system not only reduces operating costs considerably, but also maintains a pleasant cooling effect of the entire surface. Why? Because the circulation of controlled air with maximum recovery creates a pleasant and environmentally sustainable climate in the building with significant energy savings (fully electrified system) with a minimum carbon footprint in the environment.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait for the opening date of this center which, like many other buildings in this Arab emirate, seeks to set an example to follow in terms of modernism, technology, and an environmental perspective in the world.