Building Virtual Realities: Dubai Office Tower

PROJECT: Building Virtual Realities: Business Bay Office Tower
STUDIO: GSAPP Advanced Studio VI
PROFESSOR: Frederic Levrat
DATE: Spring 2008

DESCRIPTION: This project explored design that exists at the intersection of a Virtual, Visual, and Physical Environment. Beginning with an extensive study of optical illusions and the ways in which images affect the world at large, a design strategy was devised to investigate the issues of the virtual and physical. Focusing particularly on the way in which images are perceived by individuals as spatial impossibilities, the goal was to develop a method for constructing those impossibilities. Taking Dubai as a living laboratory for architectural experimentation, where almost anything is possible, the image becomes more significant than the physical manifestation of the image.

Working from a developer’s brief for a new 36-story office tower on the water in the Business Bay area, the principles of the virtual and visual were taken into the physical. Using a strict process-based design, derived from the initial investigations into optical illusions and the idea of the metaform, a new architecture where the visual value holds significance over the physical emerged. The process begins with a two-dimensional image that adheres to the rules of axonometric drawing, but contains structural and spatial impossibilities. This two-dimensional image is then transformed into a three-dimensional object via a direct translation method. The object is constructed from the image itself, using both color and perception of depth to inform folds in the surface.

While the façade retains a sense of two-dimensionality, the multivariable nature of the façade is revealed in the constantly changing geometry of the floor plates. The building, which is programmatically divided into three zones—parking, commercial, and office—is further subdivided by the architecture itself. Smaller spaces twist around the façade at different rates, creating public or semi-public outdoor spaces, which continue to the interior of the building. These balcony spaces give the building a dynamic reading as an observer moves around the building revealing the surprising spatial conditions that at first appear completely flat.

Dubai Triangles

Dubai Tower Axon

Dubai Site Rendering

Dubai Program Section

Dubai Sequence

Dubai Site

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