Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has received five 2014 Design Awards from the Middle East Chapter of the AIA, more than any other firm this year. The winning projects are the Burj Khalifa in the Built and the Interior Architecture categories, the Bahrain Bay Master Plan in the Urban Design category, and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in the Unbuilt category. Additionally, Rolex Tower received the Merit Award in the Built category. Recipients were recognized during the chapter's second annual conference, which took place from November 14 to 15 in Doha, Qatar.
The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, soaring 828 meters above Dubai. The 162-story tower contains offices, retail space, residential units, and a Giorgio Armani hotel. The overall design of the building was inspired by the geometries of a regional desert flower and the patterning systems embodied in Islamic architecture. Built of reinforced concrete and clad in glass, the building is composed of three elements arranged around a concrete core. High performance concrete walls are used for three wings that buttress one another via the building's hexagonal, central hub. These elements support the core against the wind. As it rises from a flat base, setbacks occur at each element in an upward spiraling pattern, reducing the tower’s mass as it reaches skyward. At the pinnacle, the central core emerges and is sculpted to form a spire.
The Burj Khalifa interiors are defined by restrained luxury. All lobbies, guest amenities, lounges, offices, the board room floor, and the chairman’s suite were designed by SOM and inspired by the dual influences of the building’s technological accomplishments and the regional culture and heritage. The Burj Khalifa’s highest floors reference its status as the tallest building in the world with futuristic, celestial interiors. This is in contrast to the lower floors, which are inspired by natural elements of the land. Apart from glass, stainless steel and polished dark stones, the interiors also feature Silver Travertine flooring, Venetian stucco walls, handmade rugs, stone flooring and dark, intricate Brazilian Santos Rosewood. SOM also developed an art program for the tower which placed and specified over 500 pieces of individual local and international fine art pieces. The program is anchored by World Voices, a large-scale sculpture installed in the residential lobby by internationally renowned artist Jaume Plensa.
SOM's Bahrain Bay Master Plan is designed to propel growth in Bahrain and to serve as a model for future development throughout the region. The area is brimming with potential, given its close proximity to Bahrain International Airport, Bahrain Financial Harbor, Bahrain World Trade Center, and the Diplomatic Area. The 432,000-square-meter site in Manama consists of an island connected to the mainland via causeways. Its strong radial organization is bisected by a commercial mixed-use boulevard, bookended by two grand public spaces that connect to the waterfront and pedestrian promenade. The plan calls for a variety of buildings and amenities, including residential towers, cultural venues, an upscale hotel, and a verdant park. Through this development, SOM aims to create a high density, mixed-use waterfront district that sets new standards for urban life in the region.
Once complete, the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City will be the largest hospital in Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates. Orthogonal in plan, the campus will feature a series of glass boxes anchored to a two-story, stone-clad plinth. The project comprises a general care and trauma facility, as well as specialized centers for women and children. The size of this massive project, coupled with the client’s high aspirations, presented an opportunity to create a broader, more holistic vision of a healing environment that focuses on the patient experience. Based on evidence that design can improve patient outcomes, the atmosphere aims to achieve an atmosphere of serenity through the use of natural materials, diffused light, and lush gardens. Overall, the project seeks to strike a balance between the local heritage and a modernist vocabulary.
The 59-story Rolex Tower is part of the next generation of skyscrapers on Dubai’s main thoroughfare, Sheikh Zayed Road. Through its tasteful elegance and quiet minimalism, the tower continues SOM’s tradition of exemplary mixed-use development in the Middle East and beyond. The high-rise contains 30 floors of offices, 25 floors of apartments, two exclusive residential penthouses, retail space, and a nine-story parking garage. SOM addressed site constraints by stacking programmatic requirements within a single columnar volume. With two setbacks forming sky terraces, the three-tiered massing reflects the change of uses within the tower. A high performance, patterned green glass curtain wall clads the tower, evoking a shimmering desert mirage in the bright Dubai sun. Two lobbies are located on the ground floor, one each for the tower’s commercial and residential programs. Soundwave, a stainless steel sculpture by contemporary artist James Clar, is suspended in the commercial lobby.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world, with a 75-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,700 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award — in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.