Asymptote Architecture • “It’s totally sci-fi,” said Yolande Daniels, summing up the project that had the jury feeling futuristic. The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is at the cutting edge of both form and technology, with a weblike shade structure that cloaks the hotel’s two 10-story elliptical-shaped towers. The 500-room, 900,000-square-foot hotel straddles the Yas Marina Circuit Formula One race track, its two towers knit together by a steel bridge. The team at Asymptote Architecture designed the exterior steel-and-glass latticework, which it calls a gridshell, to mirror and capture the speed, streamlined form, and dynamic energy of Formula One racing. Inside the lobby, the expertly detailed all-white hotel resembles at once an ocean liner and an icy glacial formation.
The seemingly effortless curvilinear geometry comes from extensive laboring over BIM and parametric models, which were used to control both the form and the detailing, resulting in tight tolerances and the design of a universal joint connection. Additionally, they were able to reduce the number of structural members: Only 10 supports hold up the entire gridshell. LED luminaires are integrated into each of the 5,000 fritted glass panels that make up the faceted surface. Asymptote worked with Arup’s lighting team to program the façade so that at night, the geometry transforms into a full-spectrum light show.
The jury touted the combination of spectacle and performance. The gridshell is not only for projecting an idea about high-tech luxury; it also mitigates the demands of the intense desert environment. For instance, the rooftop swimming pool, a program nearly impossible if exposed to the desert elements, tucks easily under the steel-and-glass umbrella. “The thing I like about this project is this idea of dealing with the climate by having a big shade piece that is a universal grid,” explained Bill Valentine.