Design by numbers

New building for Riyadh's financial district takes inspiration from mathematics

by James Forryan 12 October 2009
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    The design is for a new headquarters building for a leading banking institution based in Riyadh and located at the heart of the King Abdullah Financial District. Embracing new ways of working, these head offices have been designed to be an exemplar of modern workplace design.

    The design is born out of a deep understanding of the principles of Islamic mathematics and is respectful of the geometric ideals that underpin the traditional structures of the region. Simply put, the bank is about numbers, Islamic geometry is about numbers; so is the building. The shape of the building is derived from a nested and repeated fractal form within an overall Islamic pattern. By following mathematical rigour to create an interlocking and infinite geometric pattern the design creates a balanced and harmonious building form.

    In developing this iconic form, our inspiration has also been to learn from the immediate context to ensure regional relevance and to address brief requirements. Bio-mimicry of the structure of the desert butterflies’ wing has been used to inform the skin of the façades which are interpreted to provide solar shading while optimising the view out and incorporating photovoltaics. Additionally, the bank rises from an oasis that links the building directly to a nearby subterranean retail development at the same level. The sunken watery oasis or ‘wadi’ is a link to places in the region as well as creating a natural security buffer that provides passive cooling to assist in avoiding thermal shock between exteriors and interiors.

    The client / end-user is currently housed in four separate buildings and lacks a sense of community. To address this condition we have developed an optimum floor plate by creatively reconsidering the central core solution. The central core has been replaced with an internal vertical courtyard that visually and physically connects the entire building. The functional requirements of the central core have been split and located in two smaller cores at the east and west ends of the building. These cores not only provide protection from high heat and solar loads, they are also more structurally efficient. The end cores draw fresh air in directly from the exterior avoiding space hungry vertical supply ducts which have been replaced with usable and lettable floor space.

    To avoid glare, a light funnel at the top of the atrium harvests sun- light and heliostats bounce light deep into the heart of the building. Three storey winter gardens in the lower 10 stories ensure deep light penetration to the lower ground levels. The heart of the bank is a light filled vertical courtyard that is open to its people and customers. The harnessing of the bountiful daylight, combined with a broad range of other sustainable initiatives that address energy, water, indoor environmental quality and material use; the building is targeted to achieve a LEED Platinum Sustainability rating.

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