Architecture & Design

The Rub’ Al Khali Oculus

The Rub’ Al Khali Oculus

Ecological wonders

Striking designs have been presented for two environmental projects proposed to be built in Abu Dhabi. A look at the winning designs.

September 2020

Abu Dhabi has announced the winners of design competitions for two key environmental projects earmarked to be built in the UAE emirate.

The competitions were launched at the end of last year by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in collaboration with Bee Breeders, one of the world’s leading architecture competition organisers.

The competitions included the design for two of the emirate’s major projects – the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Centre in the Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve and the Mega Dunes Ecolodge in the Arabian Oryx Protected Area.

Heritage Machine by an Italian team

Heritage Machine by an Italian team

The top three winners of the Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Centre include: Petr Janda, Anna Podroužková and Kateřina Tšponová from the Czech Republic in first place with a project called To See and Not Be Seen. In second place were Wenqi Huang and Yi Yan from the US with their project called Incubator while Laurent Herbiet and Giordana Rojas from Mexico with a project called The Dune clinched the third spot.

Established in 1998, the Al Wathba Wetland Reserve consists of both natural and man-made bodies of water located 40 km southeast of central Abu Dhabi. Covering a total area of 5 sq km, the reserve comprises wetlands, sabkhas (salt flats), fossilised sands and dunes, and are densely packed with flora and fauna.  The most spectacular of the animal life is the flamingo population, which flocks to the reserve in their thousands to enjoy the warmth during the European winter months, with some remaining all year round.

For the Mega Dunes Ecolodge competition, the top three winners were: Giuseppe Ricupero, Egidio Cutillo, Stefania Schirò and Enrico Capanni from Italy with a project called Heritage Machine followed by Natalia Wrzask and Rolando Rodriguez-Leal from Mexico with The Rub’ Al Khali Oculus project in the second place.  In the third place were: Ahmad Nouraldeen, Luca Fraccalvieri, Jana Semaan and Lama Barhoumi from Lebanon with their project – Desert Lens.

The Mega Dunes Ecolodge will come up within the Arabian Oryx Protected Area, which is home to the largest population of Arabian Oryx in the world. Spanning over 5,900 sq km, it is located in the southern region of the UAE, bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Incubator’ by US designers

Incubator’ by US designers

The majority of the Arabian Oryx Protected Area consists of sand sheets and dunes, with some mega dunes and gravel plains with dwarf shrub vegetation located throughout the area.

According to EAD, all the winners were selected on the basis of their designs being cost-effective, environmentally responsible and energy-efficient for remote areas with limited road access.

“The participation in both these architectural competitions was exceptional. We received 237 design entries for the Flamingo Visitor Centre and 117 designs for the Mega Dunes Ecolodges,” remarks Ahmed Al Hashemi, the Acting Executive Director of the Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector.

“Due to the presence of so many distinguished proposed projects, it was a challenge for the jury to select the final winners. The winning designs were all eco-friendly and aligned with the sustainability needs stipulated by EAD, as part of our vision of establishing green buildings in the emirate of Abu Dhabi,” states Al Hashimi.

“EAD will work with the participants who have the winning designs to finalise the project designs and prepare them for any future executive work,” he adds.  

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