In Dubai, experimental architecture firm ZNera Space has proposed a concept design that includes a massive five-story circular structure wrapped around the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, which stands at an incredible 829.8 meters (2,723 feet), nearly double the height of the Empire State Building.
The Downtown Circle concept marries community, luxury, and futuristic urban planning in a radically ambitious design that has been brought to life through a series of fascinating images made in partnership with Pictown, an architectural rendering business.
Najmus Chowdry and Nils Remess, the lead architects of ZNera Space, see Downtown Circle as a horizontal stroke against Dubai’s vertiginous, futuristic cityscape of seemingly limitless towers.
Watch Concept Images by ZNera Space
A constantly shifting skyline
Chowdry and Remess concede that as appealing and radical as the Downtown Circle concept is, it is, for the time being, practically and financially unfeasible.
“It was designed to be a conversation starter,” Chowdry explained. “Something that can cause people to reconsider urban expansion, reconsider city congestion… We are proposing the sustainable city.”
“We were working on really crucial things that raise the debate about how we plan cities,” Remess remarked. “We chose the Burj Khalifa because it is in a congested metropolitan region, and we want to address the difficulties that come with dense city populations.”
The structure would have a circle of more than three kilometers and would be built 550 meters (1,804 feet) above street level (1.8 miles). The ring would be supported by five massive pillars, the bases of which would be positioned in vacant lots and may potentially serve another use.
“We wanted to establish a microclimate in Downtown and build a type of envelope around it to control the temperature and make it more liveable in hot weather,” Chowdry explained. “Those vertical [pillars] can be used as urban air filters.”
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The pillar structure could contain ZNera Space’s revolutionary smog-filtering design, which was considered for the World Architecture Festival 2018 award in the category of “Experimental Future Project.”
Future-oriented sustainable design
Temperatures in Dubai frequently approach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and the architects hope that their design will establish a new standard for sustainability in the region.
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“The entire ceiling will be a stretch of solar panels,” Chowdry explained. “We also intend to implement solar hydrogen cells, which we have already used in a prior project.
This device converts water into hydrogen using solar energy, which can subsequently power the air conditioning and supply energy to the building.
The design was created to complement Dubai’s ambitious strategy for a sustainable urban environment by 2040.
The plan also includes transit options from one end to the other, such as an electric tram system capable of reaching speeds of up to 100 kilometers per hour and infrastructure to handle sky taxis.
A “self-sufficient” city
This kind of architectural ambition presents engineering issues, such as building a framework robust enough to hold the interior features while being light enough to be supported by the pillars.
“The structure itself is quite light. I envision it as (a giant) aircraft, with the skin and ribs forming the structure and the interior hollow “Chowdry stated.
Architectural photographs from the 1970s demonstrate the beginnings of the modern metropolis.
“However, it is sustained by these columns and the circle ring,” he added. “We chose the circular format since it is the most stable structural format.”
According to Remess, the proposed Downtown Circle would weave residential space with commercial, corporate, and cultural zones to establish a full “self-sustaining city within a city.” “If you live there, you can walk to your office, your park, or your house in 15 to 20 minutes. It’s difficult to accomplish it in Dubai.”
The Skypark, a continuous green belt that unites all five floors of the structure, is the design’s interior showpiece.
“The Skypark is the primary spine of the overall concept,” Chowdry added. “It will be a mixed-use green area that will also serve as a location to consider how agriculture will occur in the future, particularly in cities.”
“Historically, agriculture came first, and then we created the city,” Remess explained. “We’ve kind of lost sight of this concept now. We wish to bring agriculture and food production back to the city core with this greenbelt inside the structure.”
The concept is gaining traction, but not all of it is favorable. Some comments on the firm’s Instagram page have complained that the design could harm the fabric of the downtown district.
“Some of the online comments have been harsh, but as someone recently asked us, which looks better: an empty finger or a finger with the ring on it?” Chowdry stated. “I believe it simply adds to the verticality of the Burj Khalifa.”
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