Light Matters: Translating Tradition into Dynamic Facades

The Al Bahr Towers by Aedas Photo from ArchDaily

The Dynamic Facades are a great use of adaptive technology to solve architectural problem.


The solar-responsive dynamic screen decreases the towers’ solar gain. According to Aedes, the lightly tinted glass reduces the incoming daylight at all times and not only for temperature-critical situations. The system even includes about 2.000 umbrella-like modules per tower driven by photovoltaic panels.

Mashrabiya' facade at Al Bahr Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Architecture: Aedas UK. Image © Christian Richters
Mashrabiya’ facade at Al Bahr Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Architecture: Aedas UK. Image © Christian Richters

Completed in June 2012, the 145 meter towers’ Masharabiya shading system was developed by the computational design team at Aedas.  Using a parametric description for the geometry of the actuated facade panels, the team was able to simulate their operation in response to sun exposure and changing incidence angles during the different days of the year.

© Aedas
© Aedas

The screen operates as a curtain wall, sitting two meters outside the buildings’ exterior on an independent frame.  Each triangle is coated with fiberglass and programmed to respond to the movement of the sun as a way to reduce solar gain and glare.  In the evening, all the screens will close.

“At night they will all fold, so they will all close, so you’ll see more of the facade.  As the sun rises in the morning in the east, the mashrabiya along the east of the building will all begin to close and as the sun moves round the building, then that whole vertical strip of mashrabiya will move with the sun,” said Peter Oborn, the deputy chairman of Aedas.

Responsive Facade © Aedas
Responsive Facade © Aedas

It is estimated that such a screen will reducing solar gain by more than 50 percent, and reduce the building’s need for energy-draining air conditioning.  Plus, the shade’s ability to filter the light has allowed the architects to be more selective in glass finished.  ”It (the screen) allows us to use more naturally tinted glass, which lets more light in so you have better views and less need of artificial light.

Responsive Facade © Aedas
Responsive Facade © Aedas

“The façade on Al Bahar, computer-controlled to respond to optimal solar and light conditions, has never been achieved on this scale before. In addition, the expression of this outer skin seems to firmly root the building in its cultural context,” explained Awards Juror Chris Wilkinson of Wilkinson Eyre Architects.

Responsive Facade © Aedas
Responsive Facade © Aedas

Such an award acknowledges the importance of the necessary integration of architectural form, structure, systems, and sustainable design strategies.

Cite:Karen Cilento. “Al Bahar Towers Responsive Facade / Aedas” 05 Sep 2012. ArchDaily.

Please comment.