Study and Consulting for the Design of an Urban Mixed-Use Block in Muscat
Case 2: Design of a Tower in Muscat
The standard mixed-use tower in Muscat is an eight-storey building filling out the full plot. The towers are built in long rows and placed at a narrow distance of only a few meters next to each other. The standard floor plans, however, do not acknowledge this specific context, but accommodate the apartments along a central corridor with windows equally oriented in all directions. This leads to several problems: overheating through unprotected exposure of windows to the sun; a lack of privacy through face-to-face windows; reduction of daylight in circulation areas and blockage of natural cross-ventilation.
The alternative design approach explored in this study changes the building typology of the tower.
In the case studied here, the two main facades to the front and back are oriented to the east and west, which are the least favourable exposures for openings because they heat up most. The other two facades, to the north and south face the adjacent blocks and satisfactory openings for living or bedrooms cannot be place there. Therefore, a different way of providing openings for light, views and ventilation had to be found.
The tower's front and back facades are kept fully closed but the solid volume is hollowed out in the centre. All apartments face this large internal open space (Figure 3). With all service spaces located at the sides of the tower and lit and ventilated through small slits, the generous openings of all living rooms can be arranged towards the centre. The core space of the apartments is a double height loggia to which the openings of the rooms are oriented. This area extends out towards the centre and gives access to a well-ventilated, shaded private outdoor space. None of the large openings of the apartments is directly facing a neighbour unit's openings so that that privacy is provided for all residents and yet an overall spacious impression is created (Figure 4).
The first two levels are for commercial uses which are accessed from a small plaza. The next six level are for duplex apartments, four on each level. The top floor is for a penthouse and technical facilities, such as a natural water treatment plant that provides water for the irrigation of the abundant greenery that is planted in the centre of the block.
All these design measures result in commercial and residential spaces that can be cooled in passive mode - without an active, mechanical system - for a much longer time of the year than standard designs. Furthermore, they result in apartments that provide much more privacy and comfort than usual. These measures are form-giving and thus the architecture proposed here is directly related to the climate and culture of the place. It is oriented, introverted, shaded and ventilated. This creates an architectural identity that is constructed and not construed.
Case 2: Tower
EcoHaus Project, Research & Development, German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), 2018
Team: Prof. Nikolaus Knebel, Christina Cernovsky