Four SOM Projects Win AIA Middle East 2015 Design Awards

The Middle East chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) honored four SOM projects in its 2015 Design Awards, marking the second consecutive year that SOM has earned more awards in this program than any other firm. Winners in the built projects category include Al Hamra Tower and Cayan Tower, which earned the Design Award and the Merit Award, respectively. SOM's Al Ahmadi Cultural Center took the Design Award in the unbuilt projects category, and Nozul Lusail Marina garnered an Honorable Mention. The winning projects were announced on November 13, 2015, at the AIA Middle East annual conference gala dinner held in Abu Dhabi.

Al Hamra Tower is the tallest building in Kuwait City, reaching a height of 412 meters. The building’s iconic, asymmetrical form is informed by the desire to maximize views of the Arabian Gulf while shielding the interiors from the harsh desert climate. A quarter of each floor plate is chiseled out of the south side, shifting from west to east over the height of the building. This reveals a rich, monolithic stone at the south wall, framed by the graceful, twisting flare walls that gesture toward the sky. The tower’s lobby is defined by a lamella structure that supports the floors above and articulates the space below. This distinctive feature, reminiscent of traditional Middle Eastern architecture, provides continuity from the building to its footing and acts as a strengthening component.

Cayan Tower makes a distinct mark on the Dubai skyline, with a helical design that is at once remarkable and subtle. The 75-story residential tower is a pure expression of the idea that a building’s form should directly follow its structural framework. Each of the skyscraper’s identical floorplates is slightly rotated against the story below it, resulting in a full 90-degree twist over the course of the building's 307-meter rise. As a result of this innovative design, wind load and solar heat gain are reduced compared to a rectilinear building of the same height, and a greater number of tenants are afforded desirable views of the Dubai Marina and Arabian Gulf. The skyscraper appears to change from every angle, imbuing it with a sense of movement regardless of the viewer’s vantage point. 

Al Ahmadi Cultural Center evokes the client's vision to promote art, music, theater, and dance in Kuwait. Located south of Kuwait City in Mahboula, the Center contains multiple theaters and performance spaces as well as galleries for fine arts and historic cultural artefacts. The intense desert climate required an innovative design approach for both the exterior and interior. The courtyard plan, reminiscent of traditional Islamic architecture, focuses the building inward to shelter its interiors from the sun. At the same time, the facade filters sunlight into the building, animating the courtyard, galleries, and performance spaces throughout the day with a shifting experience of light that is specific to the desert site.

Nozul Lusail Marina, a 23-story hotel, sits directly adjacent to the Persian Gulf in the new Lusail Marina Development north of Doha, Qatar. The tower takes on a carved quality with deeply recessed and shaded spaces that spiral up its entire height. These sheltered terraces offer breathtaking views of the surrounding waterfront and city and are accessible from each hotel room. They also provide self-shading and reduce the building’s cooling load. The unique pattern of the exterior screen enhances privacy, contributes to the solid appearance of the overall form, and dramatically reduces solar heat gain. The building contains 184 hotel rooms, three restaurants, lobby and rooftop bars, event spaces, and spa and fitness amenities.