Awarded “Best High-Rise Architecture” in 2008 at the CNBC Arabian Property Awards we take a closer look at Aedas’ Abu Dhabi Project
All images, plans and text “Empire Tower” courtesy of Aedas, images and plans © by Aedas.
Global design firm Aedas allow us to have a closer look at their Empire Tower project in Abu Dhabi – take a look with us:
It is the sheer dynamism of the Empire Tower that transfixes those who approach. First impressions are of a form that seems not so much to sit upon the earth as to spring from it, describing a slanted trajectory that smoothly changes course as it charges skyward. As one draws closer, the structure’s kinetic quality intensifies yet further as the eye is drawn along the paths of the distinctive ‘blades’ whose thrust accentuates the verticality of the building. Should one be viewing at night, the eye is rewarded by the ethereal glow that radiates from the façade – a light that suddenly takes on a harder edge as it plays against the contours of the blades.
Unsurprisingly given its striking originality, this 60-storey luxury residential building evolved from an unusually challenging brief. In 2006, The Empire Holdings approached Aedas, the well-known global architecture practice, to work on a design for a prime 7,013 square-metre plot near the coast at Al Sorouh Abu Dhabi in the UAE. Bordered by three major streets, the site is part of a larger masterplan that places a clutter of potentially iconic buildings within close visual range of Empire Tower. It was vitally important to the client, therefore, that the design ‘cut through’ with a singular visual presence, but not ‘push the envelope’ so far as to emerge as a mere architectural caricature. The Empire Tower would have to leave its imprint without trying too hard.
Led by design director Andrew Bromberg at Aedas, the team began their design effort by intensively scrutinising the site and discovering the challenges and advantages it posed. Among the latter are ocean views to the northeast and park views to the southwest. Among the former was the immediate presence to one side of the site of a large commercial tower. The Empire Tower evolved its response to both through an outstanding balance of form and alignment.
The tower’s eye-catching form grew from the desire to maximise its street-level presence whilst establishing an identity apart from its commercial neighbour. Thus, its form splays widely at the base, like the root system of a tree, inclining away from the street as it progresses upwards before transitioning to a moderate slant in the opposite direction. Contrasting with the sheer surfacing and soft contours of the building’s ‘face’ are nine sharp-edged ‘blade’ structures punctuating its flanks, six of which rise from ground level all the way to the tower’s 238-metre total height. Apart from its undeniable visual impact, the tower’s complex form brings the practical benefit of enlarging the view corridor past the neighbouring commercial building to the sea one block away. The ‘blades’, meanwhile, serve to maximise individual units’ frontage, and hence their views. Overall, 70 percent of the tower’s units boast sea views, with the remaining 30 percent enjoying superb views of the nearby park.
Adding yet further characteristic detail to Empire Tower are its south-facing balconies. Besides allowing residents’ an even wider, more intimate view of their surroundings, these features serve a practical purpose by shading the apartments below. The southern façade as a whole has been angled to avoid direct solar gain. Conversely, the tower’s north face is oriented to maximise natural light. The blades, meanwhile, are externally clad with an insulated glass curtain wall. Thermally efficient and fine-tuned to match local climatic conditions, the glass also makes a contribution to the building’s aesthetic imprint thanks to its distinctive tint and reflectivity.
Literally underpinning this unusual form is an innovative – and extraordinarily efficient – structural scheme. Rather than placing the building’s shear walls in their traditional location along the inner side of the core, the architects behind Empire Tower pushed them to the outer edge of the corridor. At a stroke, the effect was to widen the structural base, reduce the distance between core and façade as well as the overall structural depth, and ultimately, reduce the mass of the structural members.section 2
Unexpectedly given its external contours, the residential units of Empire Tower are largely standardised in size and layout, though they horizontally ‘shift’ in step with the building’s inclination. All 60 of the floor plates that give the development its 95,411 square-metre GFA are ‘non-typical’. By contrast, the building core is centralised and vertically stacked, maximising ease of construction and functionality. Modular units were employed on the eastern and western sides, their individual positions progressively shifting to form the structure’s distinctive ‘blades’. Smaller floor plates and a reduced core area on levels 59 and 60 allowed for the creation of a unique duplex unit.northeast elevation
Like all good architecture, the dynamic form of Empire Tower merely reflects the excellence of its functional qualities. Upon its completion, it will no doubt take its place among Abu Dhabi’s prime iconic buildings. Look more deeply into the intelligence infusing the design, however, and it is already one of the region’s most notable structures.southeast elevation
Empire Tower won the Best High-Rise Architecture Award in the 2008 CNBC Arabian Property Awards.section crown level 10 – 1BR type 1 level 10 – 1BR type 2 level 10 – 2 BR level 10 – 3BR
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