ROAR completes the American University of Sharjah’s new Research Technology and Innovation Park
ROAR has created the interior of American University of Sharjah’s new Research Technology and Innovation Park. Designed to encourage a dialogue between academia and industry to generate innovative ideas and produce thriving new enterprises, the campus – spanning over 25,000 sqm – encompasses two large atriums, several leasable offices for startups and incubators, anchor offices for blue-chip tenants and the AUS RTI HQ offices. The majority of the space is dedicated to co-working areas for the AUS students and faculty working on entrepreneurial ideas including maker-spaces, exhibition spaces and an auditorium alongside ancillary zones such as meeting rooms, seminar and multipurpose halls, a gymnasium as well as a creche. The building has two distinct atriums, each interpreting the Falaj concept through dramatic design statements. The 18 metre-wide domes in each atrium are adorned with organic-shaped metal grids at different levels, creating an illusion of movement for the visitor when passing through the space. Two large stretch fabric clouds – parametrically-designed and suspended from an imposing height of 30 metres – are the standout design feature of the first atrium; these echo the flowing lines of the Falaj system. Weighing close to a tonne, ROAR worked in close collaboration with the contractors to realise the ideal suspension system with minimal structural and design impact to the clouds.
“The design narrative is inspired by the ancient falaj irrigation system, which was first used in Sharjah 5,000 years ago by Bronze Age settlers. The falaj system gave life to communities, allowing them to grow crops in the desert. This ancestral technique resonated with America University of Sharjah Enterprises’ central mission, which is to be a catalyst for the development of problem-solving innovations. We wanted the interior design to bring this story to life in multiple ways. It is incorporated into the core of the building in that it inspires both the circulation and space planning.’ ~ Pallavi Dean, Founder and Creative Director at ROAR.
The second atrium is the green atrium. Again inspired by the Falaj method, the slab edges were treated with a 3D metal mesh feature with meandering rod forms. A feat which took over five months from rigorous design development to installation, this architectural feature is composed of over 11,000 metal rods, totalling an overall length of 54,000m. Interspersed with plants and indoor lawns, biophilia was introduced to positively impact the experience of people using the space. The leasable offices overlooking the atriums, have also been treated distinctively – from the use of concrete texture paint and terrazzo flooring to the 3D mesh, warm wood surfaces and titanium cladding with polished concrete to complement the clouds, all elements form a calming, minimalist colour palette. While many of the spaces in AUS RTI building are playful, in contrast, the RTI offices are clearly recognised as a bridge to the corporate world. The HQ reflects an elegant, mature and sophisticated design language followed through with dark timber surfaces complimented with mesh laminated glass partitions and bronze accents. ROAR was appointed by AUS Enterprises, an organisation which connects businesses with academic research from the American University of Sharjah.
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Zayed Centre for Research in London by Stanton Williams is a new urban beacon of science and design
Dedicated to delivering world class research together with new treatments and therapies, the Zayed Centre for Research by award-winning architectural practice Stanton Williams into Rare Disease in Children for Great Ormond Street Hospital Foundation Trust, University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity is the world’s first purpose-built centre dedicated to paediatric research into rare diseases.
The public-facing research facility in the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter is conceived as a holistic space where science, city and human lives come together. Inside, the Zayed Centre for Research is organised around two connected ‘hearts’, an outpatient zone and a research zone, each planned as layered volumes around a daylit atrium. Across eight storeys the building provides academic research workspace, seminar and meeting spaces, specialist laboratories, and outpatient clinics for children and young people.
With its prominent presence next to Coram’s Fields – the former site of the Foundling Hospital and a living symbol of children’s welfare for over 250 years – the Zayed Centre for Research is a new urban beacon of science and healthcare.
Gavin Henderson, principal director at Stanton Williams, said: “The opportunity to work with Great Ormond Street Hospital, UCL and GOSH Charity to make a building that was about science and medical care in the heart of the city on such a public and symbolic site opposite Coram’s Fields seemed very powerful. We felt very strongly that we wanted to give public visibility to science and allow people in the public realm to understand what the building was about and give a sense of the life-changing activities taking place inside.”
At the base of the building is a 600sqm double-height principal laboratory, visible from all sides within the Zayed Centre for Research as well as from the street outside. A shared single entrance bridge, which passes above these laboratories, welcomes both research staff and patients, drawing them into a central atrium, flooded with light. A transparent ground floor gives visibility and prominence to the activities inside the laboratories, while carefully articulated terracotta fins and glazing address Coram’s Fields and reflect the changing sky – expressing the civic significance of this ground-breaking institution.
A sense of openness and generosity dissolves the ‘clinical experience’ within. Encounters with ‘non-clinical’ surfaces, such as exposed concrete and European oak, create a calm and dignified environment for young patients and their families as they address their health issues: an environment shared with clinicians and researchers in the endeavour to understand and overcome the impact of life-changing diseases.
Designed to high energy efficiency standards, the Zayed Centre for Research has achieved BREEAM Excellent certification and is intended to produce 35% less carbon emissions than required under the Building Regulations.
Images: Stanton Williams
Better together: A recent research breathes optimism into the future of public spaces
Daily tous les jours, an art and design studio based out of Canada creating collective experiences for public spaces since 2010, is proud to release a timely research paper entitled “Better Together: Reflections for Pandemic Times”. In keeping with the studio’s core values, the research paper invites humans to play a critical role, now more than ever, in the transformation of their environments.
“The pandemic is a prequel to a lot of challenges that humanity will eventually have to face in terms of climate change, inequality, over-population, and more,” explains Mouna Andraos, a co-founder of Daily tous les jours, along with Melissa Mongiat. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture by saying ‘ok, it’s time to move in a cohesive manner’.”
The power of art and design
Having studied abroad in New York and London, the studio’s co-founders returned to Montreal 10 years ago at a time when technology was increasingly being incorporated into the planning stages of public spaces. Their collective experiences in both arenas provided them with a unique perspective on the potential power of people gathering in vibrant public spaces that harness emerging technologies.
During Montreal’s redevelopment of the Quartier des Spectacles, in the heart of the downtown core, Daily tous les jours made their mark with the introduction of “Musical Swings”, an interactive artwork that was incorporated into the surrounding public space. With acclaimed success, and a glowing endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, the studio leveraged its international network to take the project on the road, presenting it to an international audience of public space stakeholders. The process served as a proof of concept, reinforcing their belief that art and design belongs in conversations about public spaces and a wide array of related urban challenges.
For Daily tous les jours, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it the gut-wrenching realization that many of the studio’s projects now fell on the wrong side of new social distancing measures. Most of the world’s initial studies emerged as dystopic portrayals of touchless societies and an end to public gatherings as we know them. In the face of grim news and stressful confinement, the studio took a deep breath and began reflecting on a brighter future. What began as a therapeutic self-examination soon evolved into a research project, driven by a sense of duty to keep collective experience planning on urban agendas. In addition to monitoring global events, they kept their fingers on the pulse of current collaborators and stakeholders on all sides of the public space debate. As theaters, concert promoters, and a slew of other business interests emerge in search of new models for a new reality, their research also recognizes the importance of positive economic effects as part of any solution.
“After being inundated in recent months with what we need to do, and what we can’t touch, the more we advanced with our research, the less grim it all began to feel,” notes Mongiat. “We are social beings who will continue to gather, and this pandemic can pave the way to us gathering in even more meaningful and profound ways than before.”
Designing the future
Daily tous les jours presents their research in the form of a guidebook, and as a work in progress aimed at expanding the dialogue within the circles of decision-makers at all levels. It is a bridge towards a brighter future of socialization, while acknowledging the impacts of the current health crisis, and proposing new ways to infuse enchantment into urban experiences. The research also highlights the important role played by artists and designers in the creation of human-scale experiences in public spaces, and how the emergence of a global pandemic can be converted into opportunities for creating more equal, more accessible, and more joyful projects.
Divided into three parts (State of Human Connection, Urban Principles for Planning Ahead, Future of Collective Experiences), Daily tous les jours’ research examines a broad array of social, economic, and climate-related issues that can inspire new urban principles and energise city visions of future collective experiences.
“If significant change is going to come in the aftermath of this pandemic, then its important to ensure that the change encompasses the entirety of how we want to live, and not just questions of public health or economic recovery,” emphasises Andraos. “As designers and artists, we felt that it was critically important for us to examine the larger context of how our own work should evolve.”
Expanding the conversation
In recognising the importance of their research, Daily tous les jours has made it available to the public in a variety of formats aimed at inspiring better planning of public spaces. In addition to the full report, interested parties can read an executive summary that sums up the research’s innovative ideas, or they can browse through the studio’s cheat sheet for post-pandemic public life.
The positivity of the research is being received as a breath of fresh air, and new projects are on the way. The authors hope that the momentum of renewed inspiration and optimism will carry through to the highest levels of decision-making, becoming a catalyst for concrete new guidelines for getting together better and relating to our environments.
“Montreal is sort of a lab for this type of innovation, and our university programs are producing a new breed of designers and artists who are using their talents to radically transform public spaces,” says Mongiat. “A lot of tactical things are being done, and we hope that our research will help all stakeholders to understand the value of social gatherings and enchantment so that we can tackle the challenges in economical and sustainable ways.”