Project presented with Claude Boullevraye de Passillé at the ThyssenKrupp Elevator International
Architecture Award - Dubai '08
Competition's aim: Design a tall Emblem Structure to promote the New Face of Dubai of
which the sole program is a café and a children's library within a one hundred and forty meter tall building.
Special thanks to: Pierre Molina (Chair of the Association des fauconniers et autoursiers
du Québec), Lyndal Brown & Ermal Kapedni
« I have my heart on my fist.
Like a blind falcon. »
-- Le Tombeau des Rois, Anne Hébert (French-Canadian poet and writer)
The Tower of Space proposes to both capture and praise the essence of Arabic culture,
rivisiting major symbols which have on numerous occasions placed it as a prominent civilization throughout history.
This design addresses the past and future, integration into and infiltration of the landscape's characteristics.
But above all the Tower of Space creates an intense experience as well as an attractive architectural object.
Four principles of design:
Over 8,000 years ago, the Arab civilization recognized the divine power of this bird of prey,
which gave birth to falconry. Today, over half of this art's practitioners reside in the Arab Emirates.
Flying at two hundred kilometers per hour and seeing a hundred images a second this emblem of ancient
culture, the fastest among all birds, also stands out as a symbol of present-day speed. The falcon
symbolizes the future for the Arabs.
In falcon breeding, chicks develop preying and flying skills over a period of three months during
which they are perched in nests sixty meters above ground. In a unique design, the Tower of Space offers
the falcons ten nests. These are occupied year round, observable from inside by passersby, who remain
invisible to the falcons.
The location of the tower is ideal. Within less than a five kilometer radius it provides falcons
with the port (a favorite source of water, fish and grain) and the main wet wildlife reserve of the area.
The presence of a few dozen falcons can in no way unbalance this environment.
Falconry was initially a practice of capturing migrating birds, training them to hunt then freeing
them after a few months. To get them accustomed to life with humans required the falcons to be temporarily
blinded. In the same way, the Tower of Space proposes the windowless experience of momentary blindness.
The focus of this tower is to offer a transitional experience. Starting from the open horizon of the desert
the visitor wanders through the building in a total loss of perception of the surroundings. Upon arriving at
the top, he emerges from this vertical tunnel to admire a three hundred sixty degrees open view.
Arab civilization has long praised language as a tool to bridge cultures. It is known for its
long-established full dedication to translating manuscripts and extensive building of public libraries.
Arab calligraphy and architecture meet in the tradition of the arabesque. This motif invites continuous
contemplation. Within the Tower of Space, it is the base for an eight sided revolving structure built of
cyclically piled modules of concrete. This three dimensional arabesque fills up the whole tower. At the
bottom of it is the library. At the top is the café. The visitor to the library is still while his mind
wanders within the artificial worlds found in the books. Similarly the architecture of the tower provides
an artificial environment, a hovering structure, within which the mind can wander. Culinary art is fully
dedicated to the enhancement and epxloration of sensory experiences. While rising within the tower, a loss
of orientation, provides in turn a similar control of the senses over the mind.
The landscape surrounding the site, an open horizon punctuated with isolated skyscrapers in the
near and far distance, dictates the strategy which builds up the tower, both inside and outside.
Thus the proportion and disposition by intervals of a set of eight concrete blocks are a literal
transcription of the adjoining environment inside the project. The locally blended concrete, integrates
the combined color of sky and sand of the surroundings into the Tower of Space.
This mass configuration is balanced on the outer and inner perimeter by two stairs linked by catwalks
at irregular intervals. The whole facade is suspended from the intricate network of blocks, catwalks,
and stairs, both a labyrinth and an architecture of encounters.
Around the tower, a grid landscape of blocks creates a labyrinthine-threshold. The visitor is led
to either the open air base of the tower or through a ramp to the ten meter raised above ground library
lobby. Two structural U shaped elevator shafts carry visitors, employees and deliveries from the
underground parking up to the roof-top spherical café. The U shape of the elevator shafts permit
users to see the inside of the tower as they go up and down. Furthermore, two stairs of expressive
shapes each have the dual function of closed concrete egress stairs and topping grand public stairs.
The labyrinthine garden of concrete blocks, the ramp and interior labyrinthe create a succession
of experiences rising from the desert up. This walk ends with an enclosed vertical garden at the top
of the inner facade. The tower is thus a contemporary equivalent to the traditional Arab inaccessible
garden, enclosed and hidden away. A concrete vertical labyrinth imbedded within an outer barrier leads
to it. A perceptually disorientating play of light tumbles inside this cavernous enclosure within which
rays infinitely reflect upon all surfaces of polished concrete.
In its shape and function, this project draws its inspiration from the traditional desert tower
of winds. Most of the tower's facade is opaque and the building's interior is void. During most days of
the year, the difference between the warm sunny exterior and the shaded opaque interior tube-like vertical
space will create a strong upward cool breeze during the warmest hours of the warmest days, circulating by
way of traps in floors of the building's only two spaces with programmatic functions, the café and the library.