Launch Slideshow

Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

Oasis Generator

SOM's Chicago office engineers a desalinization tower that aims to make the seaside desert a bit more habitable.

Oasis Generator

SOM's Chicago office engineers a desalinization tower that aims to make the seaside desert a bit more habitable.

  • Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10CB%2Etmp_tcm20-193558.jpg

    Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

  • The tower is coated in 10,000 evacuated solar tubes. Superheated water from those tubes will be able to power a 360-kilowatt steam turbine (bottom middle), which will provide energy for the tower's systems, including a 22-kilowatt desalination plant that will convert nearly 9,000 gallons of seawater to fresh water daily (bottom left) for irrigation and to refill the solar tubes. The turbine will also power a chiller (bottom right) to provide cool air for the tower's interior spaces.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10CD%2Etmp_tcm20-193572.jpg

    The tower is coated in 10,000 evacuated solar tubes. Superheated water from those tubes will be able to power a 360-kilowatt steam turbine (bottom middle), which will provide energy for the tower's systems, including a 22-kilowatt desalination plant that will convert nearly 9,000 gallons of seawater to fresh water daily (bottom left) for irrigation and to refill the solar tubes. The turbine will also power a chiller (bottom right) to provide cool air for the tower's interior spaces.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The tower is coated in 10,000 evacuated solar tubes. Superheated water from those tubes will be able to power a 360-kilowatt steam turbine (bottom middle), which will provide energy for the tower's systems, including a 22-kilowatt desalination plant that will convert nearly 9,000 gallons of seawater to fresh water daily (bottom left) for irrigation and to refill the solar tubes. The turbine will also power a chiller (bottom right) to provide cool air for the tower's interior spaces.

  • Slices through the tower show the various uses of interior space, including an atmospheric research laboratory and an observation level.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10D1%2Etmp_tcm20-193600.jpg

    Slices through the tower show the various uses of interior space, including an atmospheric research laboratory and an observation level.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Slices through the tower show the various uses of interior space, including an atmospheric research laboratory and an observation level.

  • Twenty-four tension cables connect the top of the tower to the ground to provide stabilization in the face of high winds that could stress the tall, thin structure.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10D2%2Etmp_tcm20-193607.jpg

    Twenty-four tension cables connect the top of the tower to the ground to provide stabilization in the face of high winds that could stress the tall, thin structure.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Twenty-four tension cables connect the top of the tower to the ground to provide stabilization in the face of high winds that could stress the tall, thin structure.

  • Analysis of movement during a dynamic event such as an earthquake

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10D3%2Etmp_tcm20-193614.jpg

    Analysis of movement during a dynamic event such as an earthquake

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Analysis of movement during a dynamic event such as an earthquake.

  • Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp10CC%2Etmp_tcm20-193565.jpg

    Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Solar tube density varies on the different faces of the tower. The highest concentration is on the south façade, in an effort to harness the maximum amount of solar energy to convert to steam power.

The Oasis Generator was developed by the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill at the request of the United Arab Emirates, which hopes to become less dependent on oil revenue by increasing its urban infrastructure. Since much of the landscape in the United Arab Emirates is unwelcoming, at best, the design team created a tower that would house a desalinization plant—as well as an atmospheric research laboratory and an observatory—to help irrigate the coastline, creating a more habitable ecology that can be built up for post-oil industry.

SOM designed the tower using a genetic algorithm, in which principles from nature and natural selection identify the ideal form for a function in a specific landscape. The result is a 30-foot-diameter structural concrete core, enclosed in a climbing concrete latticework. For the lower two-thirds of the 600-foot-tall tower, the lattice remains flush against the core. The lattice of concrete then expands outward into a lamellar structure at the top. Twenty-four perimeter strand cables accommodate wind and seismic loads, and some 10,000 evacuated solar tubes heat water for a steam engine that powers all of the tower’s systems. Included in those systems is a 22-kilowatt desalination unit that converts nearly 9,000 gallons of seawater into fresh water daily.

The power generation aspect of the tower alone was enough to intrigue the jury. “This is the kind of thing that General Electric can build and put out there and just make huge forests of,” Craig Hodgetts said. “Relative to solar farms, which are long, horizontal structures, this is a good approach. And the engineering is pretty advanced, technically.” What was less clear to the jury was how the tower would help mitigate the desert environment around it. “I was looking for more about the irrigation, since it was saying that it would spawn an oasis,” Lauren Crahan said. John Ronan agreed: “They didn’t really explain how installing one of these towers gets you this lush environment.”


  • Ross Wimer
    Ross Wimer

Oasis Generator, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago—Ross Wimer (design partner); Colin Franzen, Daria Minosyants, Dan Nowell (architecture team); Aaron Mazeika, Lauren Stromberg (structures team); Keith Besserud, Heechan Shin, Wei Wang (blackbox team); Arvidner Dang, Shweta Manchanda, Michael Smith (M/E/P team)

2009 R+D Awards

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