The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven states located on the Persian Gulf, promotes an internationally-recognized program of social, economic and environmental sustainability. Since it was founded in 1971 the country has grown rapidly into a model of peace, progress and prosperity in the Middle East. This new government complex will house UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) – a Parliamentary advisory body currently undergoing democratic constitutional reforms – and it will be a showcase for the government’s eco-consciousness at a majestic scale.
The new FNC building symbolizes the unique identity of the UAE: a modern society moving boldly into the future while retaining a strong connection to its history. The project harmonizes familiar Islamic design language with contemporary form and sustainable strategies, creating meaning and maximum functionality. The design incorporates equal-sized male and female prayer rooms promoting gender equality and passive environmental methods employed for centuries by local builders are integrated with state of the art technologies. The new Parliament adheres to the principles of Estidama (The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s sustainability initiative) and seeks a 5 Pearl (the highest) rating.
The siting of the Parliament building conveys its significance as a public institution. The complex faces the Arabian Gulf, the body of water shared by six of the seven emirates and the source of the federation’s traditional fishing and pearling industries. The front pedestrian entrance ascends from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, a processional boulevard where important civic events and celebrations take place. The monolithic terraced plinth elevates the Parliament high for views of the sea, and doubles as security barrier (without bollards). The building’s welcoming face expresses the FNC’s expanding role in the life of Emirati citizens, as well as its increasing transparency, as the country moves toward democracy. The complex will include public amenities such as a landscaped open plaza, library, cinema and exhibition space. The landscaping emphasizes native plant species such as Ghaf Trees and Date Palms.
The Gulf region’s desert landscape was a primary source of inspiration. The design is anchored by a 100-meter-diameter dome, a contemporary descendent of the monumental Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque domes of Istanbul. The dome is a “flower of the desert”, its shape derived the Tribulus Omanense, a desert bloom with five yellow petals that is the national flower of the U.A.E. Patterned with sunscreens and translucent stone panels, the precast concrete structure cools and sheds dappled light of decorative Islamic patterns on the pure white marble Assembly Hall. Under the dome, the micro-climate is enhanced by evaporative cooling from salt-water pools and fountains, and hot water is being generated through concealed thermal collectors installed beneath the courtyard and stored in ground-level tanks.
The plinth and Parliamentary offices form a massive square surrounding the circular dome and Assembly hall; their thick limestone exterior walls are a sensible traditional solution to searing desert temperatures. The offices’ deeply-set, small window openings are fitted with moveable mashrabiya screens to help control the sun. At night the Parliament can be viewed from great distances across the water, its dome glowing like a jewel.Location: United Arab Emirates
Architects: Ehrlich Architects
Design Architect: Ehrlich Architects
Executive Architect: Godwin Austen Johnson – GAJ
WAF Entry: 2011