The creation of a corporate headquarters is an important moment in the life of a company. A great headquarters becomes both a symbol of the company and the symbol of its city. A headquarters building should bring people together and create a work environment that is comfortable, pleasant and stimulating. In the design of a new headquarters there is the opportunity to shape the workplace in a way that reflects the aspirations and culture of the company.
To begin, we thought of a space that would be like a courtyard, in the tradition of Islamic
architecture. Here the courtyard is formed by two bars set apart as wings connected by a central vertical courtyard atrium. We examined the city of Abu Dhabi: its strong urban grid. The plan reflects this. The wing to the north follows the city grid while the wing
to the south appears to open like a book, opening to the sea, the vista and towards Mecca. The opening draws the sea and green of the Corniche into the building. A series of gardens in the sky become an extension of the green parkway.
The scheme is simple. ADIA’s future requirements demand a large single floor plate with a large central common zone on each floor for informal meeting and social interaction in the tradition of the local majlis. This central zone has become the vertical atrium garden, the heart of the scheme that unifies the whole building and represents the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority organisation and its openness. The design concept further refines the idea of creating an indigenous form, a form inspired by the special character of this waterfront site and the buildings importance as an international headquarters. The key to the design is the acknowledgement of the profound importance of the sea in the development of the site and of the urban plan as a garden city.
The 38 storey tower provides a total of 87,300 square metres of accommodation and support space, inclusive of 62,500 square metres of office space. ADIA was keen that their new headquarters promoted a new spirit of transparency and cooperative working. The central meeting area in the atrium, adjacent to the lift lobby on each floor, made an ideal focus for the scheme and also gave an architectural solution that matched the organisation’s aspirations – the office wings each side of the atrium have been designed so that there is a visual connection with the central meeting area, to give the sense of a common space dedicated to a common purpose. This central zone has become the vertical atrium garden - the heart of the scheme - unifying the whole building and representing the organization and its openness.
The service core anchors the eastern edge of the building allowing flexible workspace in the two office wings. At the head of one office wing is the office of the Executive Director of each department; at the head of the opposite wing is the large departmental conference suite. Their placement encourages interaction between staff members during the day, reinforcing the ethos of cooperation, communication and transparency.
Flexibility was a necessity in the planning of the office floors; a high churn rate was anticipated and designed for. Modular systems for partitions, ceilings, services and furniture systems were developed to accommodate the high rate of change, while also providing for the various requirements of each specific department. Open-plan and cellular office spaces were required, as were zones for interaction and meetings. The latter are located both within a central landscaped atrium and the series of sky courtyard gardens. The atria cladding system incorporates activated fabric blinds, sheltering public spaces from the western sun while providing views out. The building user has control of his individual office environment (lighting, comfort cooling and external blinds) through a hand-held control unit, and each of the building systems are addressable, and can be reconfigured to suit changes to the office layout.
The office space also needed to accommodate different working hours associated with this global company’s regional working needs. The design caters to this notion of the 24/7 live and work concept with café/restaurant, prayer rooms, health club and swimming pool amenities incorporated into the design.
The 230-seat auditorium at Lower Ground level is designed for flexible use, with demountable walls and a bi-directional stage opening onto a large reception/break-out area that can accommodate the majority of the employees for special gatherings.
The competition winning scheme, conceived in 1998, began with a sustainable agenda, common of civic buildings in the Gulf. The sustainable agenda warranted an integrated architectural and engineering design approach that would apply technologies and system efficiencies to minimize energy use while making optimal use of available natural daylight into the office, reducing `artificial light and capturing views of nature and the sea beyond.
The building is alive and responsive to natural forces. Natural daylight is provided to the office interiors through a fully glazed façade, and by frosted-glazed office partitions. With a fully glazed façade issues of solar control and thermal comfort are handled using an