Majid Al Futtaim is currently putting the finishing touches to its latest hotel, the Aloft City Centre Deira, ahead of its anticipated opening this summer. The hotel features a modular façade that thrives to create a sense of depth, achieved through articulation and a play with recesses and angled surfaces. Rational and organised, with a definite rhythm, the Aloft is a typical example of the BSBG approach to façade design; one that’s been uniquely cultivated and is a signature aspect of many of the projects we have designed. BLVD Crescent, Jebel Ali Park Hotel and Banyan Tree Residences - Hillside Dubai are all examples of the design language we adopt. It reflects clarity, functionality, modernity and strong identifiable features.
The Aloft façade divides the massing into three zones - the podium, the main façade and the penthouse section. All three zones have been designed to represent a similar architectural language, however there is variance in execution due to the different functional requirements of the components of the hotel.
The podium comprises of a drop-off area, car parking levels, lobby and restaurant areas, a terrace and the pool deck. Each of these areas require a different purpose to be fulfilled by the ‘skin’ within which they are enclosed - appropriate for the specific function. The terrace level is, naturally, completely open but the parking levels feature a cladding that visually conceals while providing controlled airflow, and the restaurants and lobby are sealed.
Despite these different functional requirements, BSBG designed the podium to appear as a single entity. We achieved this with the use of metal fins that run vertically from top to bottom in a selective rhythm, paying tribute to the grid structure of the building. These fins almost create a veil, becoming denser in areas, for example the car parking levels, and opening up in others, as can be seen with the approach to the terrace level.
The second layer of the podium skin is clad in perforated panels with full-height glass units and solid aluminium panels, determined by the functional space they cover. The main lobby of the hotel is articulated as a box, fully glazed seamlessly, protruding as a central focal point.
As we move to the main façade, we see a unitised, modular design which uses floor-to-ceiling glass, providing guests with spectacular, unimpeded views over the Dubai Creek Golf Course and the Creek itself - towards Downtown Dubai. The angled, solid portion of the modular façade conceals an entertainment unit within each of the rooms, which sits directly behind. The finish of this angled surface was studied in-depth to find a solution that responds to the strong sunlight by varying its bronze/light gold colour grade. This signature feature of the façade is also vertically grazed by light from a concealed source at night, which gives the hotel a unique, warm and inviting appearance.
Finally, the top two floors are distinguishable from the main façade with the use of framing to create a singular zone. The rooms in this upper section are predominantly fully-glazed with seamless joints, alternating with spandrel units, ceramic fritted vertically where the rooms are divided.
Each unit within the hotel features high-level articulation and detail, something that wouldn’t have been possible on site. As such, pre-fabrication of many of the unit components was necessary, and was carried out within a controlled environment prior to delivery at the construction site. BSBG integrated the seam and movement joints of each façade unit into the overall design language, articulated and concealed with flush metal channels around each module.
The façade of the standard rooms overlooking Dubai Creek feature within a unitised modular system with prefabricated components. They were designed with the layout of the rooms in mind, allowing for maximised views where possible and privacy where necessary. The standardised guest room layout with the addition of multi-bay suites did pose some challenges to the organisation of the façade. Guest room orientations were mirrored/flipped to ensure that the ‘solid’ aluminium panel to the Creekside façade is consistently related to the guest room TV wall location.
Working with the sun
Each of the façade units is articulated with reveals which increase the depth and allow for additional shading to reduce glare and to achieve cooling requirements. This also gives the hotel a unique sculptural look. In addition, high performance glazing is deployed throughout the building, again to reduce the reliance upon artificial methods of cooling within the hotel.
PetraGulf produced the Creekside aluminium facades and glazing, prefabricated off-site for maximum quality control. Aluminium and glass are the main materials used within the Aloft façade. Full-height glazing maximises the views and aluminium is paired with the glass to give a modern materiality to the framed appearance. The two main material components together play very well, reflecting the sun, and achieving a look that changes throughout the day depending on how the sun hits the façade, and from which angle or at what time of day the observer views the building.
The colour of the aluminium had to be carefully selected to achieve the sun-responsive colour we wanted. After in-depth study and consideration, the bronze/golden aluminium was selected. The colour allows for the development to be recognisable as a hotel, and remains sympathetic to the attached Deira City Centre mall and the Majid Al Futtaim brand.
Armin Buchbinder on…
The Middle East challenge
“The harsh climate in the region does add to the complexity of façade design for architects here. In addition, the increasing awareness of sustainability issues here requires that we approach each façade with a level of emphasis on passive solar control systems, as we have more than 300 days a year of sunshine.
“We must also ensure that costs are kept reasonable, and this means that for the most part we tend not to look to over-complicate façade designs. There are, however, occasions when a more complex façade is desired, and in these cases we need to bear in mind the increased effort for maintenance, particularly given the high frequency of exterior cleaning required because of heightened dust exposure and very limited rainfall.”
The next big thing
“We are now seeing the introduction of kinetic façade systems that react in an intelligent way to the solar and seasonal changes. We’ve seen this recently with the Apple Store in The Dubai Mall, with its rotating solar blades that negotiate requirements for shading and views out depending on solar gains and the time of day or season. It’s a trend I expect to see continue if we can successfully find ways to communicate the long-term savings potential on building management costs, in comparison with elevated construction costs in the short-term.”
Project: Aloft City Centre Deira
Developer: Majid Al Futtaim
Main contractor: Laing O’Rourke
Design Architect: BSBG