With its most eye-catching feature a spectacular garden of massive artificial sunflowers that provide movable shade during the day, the new, sustainable city center for Masdar, UAE is a stunning model for future urban growth. International practice Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) won a competition to design the city, with construction set to be completed over seven phases by 2016.
From above, the white grouping of ‘Sunflower Umbrellas’ looks like a clump of lilies among the water-evoking translucent blue of solar panels. These umbrellas not only shade a large open area – closing in on themselves at night to reveal the starry skies – they store heat during the day and release it after dark.
Along with the plaza are a five-star hotel, an extended-stay hotel, a convention center, an entertainment complex and retail facilities. The photovoltaic panels that provide energy from the sun also shade the roofs of the individual buildings inside, reducing the need for cooling. Heliostatic mirrors between the panels funnel daylight into the voids between the buildings.
Rainwater is captured from the roof and stored in a tank large enough to hold 50 years worth of rain, and hydroponic gardens watered with recycled greywater from the hotel supply food to the hotel restaurants and farmer’s markets.
While the greenest solutions are those that reduce waste and cost by incorporating existing architecture and infrastructure, LAVA’s Masdar city center design gives us an interesting look at how new urban centers can be engineered as population growth pushes the growth of cities around the world.