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King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

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Project Description

This competition entry for the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was designed to engage the intense climatic conditions of its desert setting. Incorporating vernacular design strategies into cutting-edge architecture, materials and engineering systems, its evocative dune-like shape maintains a predominantly north-south aspect ratio, allowing for enhanced control of daylight and views. The innovative exterior wall system incorporates photovoltaics, shading fins and an inner layer of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), a translucent polymer that allows diffused natural light into the interior while protecting it from heat gain. This yields a 106% positive-energy building. The building is sited in relation to solar paths and patterns, maximizing daylight harvesting and creating interior microclimates while using its innovative exterior wall system to block solar heat gain even as its generates solar power via photovoltaics. KAPSARC encourages natural ventilation, using air movement to cool the building and funneling wind through an underground labyrinth which tempers the air. The cresting, elongated form of the building evokes the shifting dunes of the surrounding desert landscape. It houses a slender, elongated interior with a series of distinct program buildings-within-the-building flanking a central green concourse and linked by a network of skybridges.
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