New York’s REX architecture studio has designed a pair of skinny media towers that feature ‘blooming’ Mashrabiya sunscreens that protect against excess solar gain. Mashrabiya is an old Arabian architectural practice to passively cool hot desert buildings.
After realizing that glass has no place in Middle East architecture given consistently sunny and hot climate conditions, studios involved in the region began to design external shading structures that shield buildings from too much sun.
Siemens recently incorporated fin-like shades on their new headquarters at Masdar, whereas the Al-Bahr towers in Abu Dhabi have a moving system that require a great deal more energy and materials.
REX has designed double-sided retractable mashrabiya screens for a pair of enjoined media towers. Both the client and budget are confidential, but the stone-clad towers with full glazing are designed for a narrow footprint somewhere in the Middle East.
“To efficiently accommodate the two media companies’ program within the precedent footprint, offices are stacked over broadcast and news studios, which in turn are stacked over each company’s common facilities,” writes REX in their design brief.
“The large studios which could not fit within the thin towers, and for which permanent blackout is desired, are organized below grade.”
Both sides of each tower are shaded by retractable sunshades with a 47.5 ft diameter. When the sunscreens overlap, they form a Mashrabiya pattern, “meeting the media companies’ shared desire for infusing the buildings with local iconography.”
The screens respond to the sun’s movement across the sky and open instantaneously, and at night, LED lights embedded in the shading structure create a massive 722 x 722 foot media wall that broadcasts the companies’ content in real time – this is visible from afar.
In terms of its projected environmental impact, shading the interior will help to reduce air-conditioning loads and LED lights reduce energy consumption as well, but this is going to be a mammoth undertaking if it ever gets underway.
Within the 2,600,000 square foot twin towers are offices, studios, an amphitheater, auditorium and theater, a cafe, canteen and even a fine dining restaurant, a lounge for regular employees and one for executives, a health club, majlis (not the floating kind, unfortunately) and an art gallery.