Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Client: Mubadala Development
Architect: Goettsch Partners and Gensler
Size: 26,000 square meters
Status: Completed 2012
Environmental Rating: LEED Gold CS

Sowwah Square is a significant urban space located on the Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi and provides a green retreat at the centre of the new commercial hub.

The inspiration for the square was derived from the nature and culture inherent to the Arabian Peninsula: dunes, traditional irrigation systems (Falaj), oasis, Bedouin textiles and the popular use of formal clipped hedges in United Arab Emirates, drawing connections with the French baroque château gardens. This merging of ideas is represented in a contemporary responsive design created a sustainable, cool and protected micro climate for users and a dynamic kaleidoscope of planting and patterned paving on the ground and viewed from the surrounding towers.

The structure of the square uses large constructed vegetated mounds that orchestrate outdoor rooms to shelter pedestrians from the Shamal, a strong north-westerly wind blowing over Persian Gulf and to provide intimate spaces amongst the towering buildings. Linking the mounds together, the decorative pattern like that of a traditional rug, weaves through the square.

To soothe people from the heat, water features are incorporated into long stone benches that wrap the mounds, providing playful and tactile experience. The surface texture is finished with ornate grooves creating a dynamic rippling effect. In order to maximise this limited resource, and reduce evaporation, the water is contained in narrow Falaj like channels as used in ancient irrigation system found throughout the Middle East. At night, the benches come to life with integrated lighting at the base that silhouettes the mounds and highlights the polished surfaces.

Innovative sustainable design has been instrumental in the project which has been awarded a LEED Gold certification. The steep angulated mounds contribute 1.45 times more green space than level planters and water consumption is reduced due to the vertical planting maximizing 100% irrigation moisture.