Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Aldar Headquarters, Abu Dhabi
Posted May 2012
Aldar Headquarters was recognized as a nominee in the 2011 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings

"A perfect timeless geometry comes into absolute unity with Aldar HQ, a seamless whole evoking harmony and beauty, culture and technology."
- MZ Architects

Abu Dhabi
110 m (361 ft)
Primary Use

Aldar Properties

Design Architect
MZ Architects

Structural Engineer
Laing O’Rourke

A perfect circle at the water's edge, Aldar's new headquarters is the centrepiece of Al Raha Beach, an exclusive new city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. The striking shape of Aldar's headquarters is achieved through the use of a structural diagrid – a diagonal grid of steel. The first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates, it largely eliminates the need for internal columns to support the building.

Intended to create a sculptural iconic landmark through a novel architectural form, the geometric shape of the Aldar Headquarters building symbolizes unity, stability and rationality. The site is part of the Al Raha Beach Development in a central location within the development as a whole. The plot is on the west end of the Al Dana precinct overlooking the marina and the canal. Significant effort went into the creation of efficient internal spaces and an effective structural system within the simple geometric form.

The introduction of a diagonal grid of steel as structural diagrid is the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates and largely eliminates the need for internal columns to support the building. As the result: an uninterrupted view of the Abu Dhabi coastline through fully glazed façade.

Figure 1. Front elevation

The geometry of the building provided a unique challenge to keeping the number of panels to a minimum. It was achieved through a toroidal geometry which can be thought of as a ring donut baked with too much yeast where the dough has expanded so that there is no longer a hole in the middle. This design allows for all panels on a floor to be the same size. Along with the mirrored geometry of the building and a special joint system the designers were able to reduce the number of panels from 10,000 to just ten.

Figure 2. Conceptual sketch

A complex structural analysis of the podium and tower superstructure was undertaken using the 3D finite element analysis program, Strand 7. This was coupled with multiple lifecycle analysis during various stages of the project to ensure a sustainable solution. This enables the building to strive for a LEED Silver rating with the MEP systems accounting for a significant portion of the energy savings. Aldar also incorporates a Building Energy Management System to control and monitor the building systems to ensure a safe and efficient operation.

Figure 3. Strutural diagrid Figure 4. Atrium space between the two "discs"

The client requirement to have two separate lift cores each serving all levels posed some unusual challenges for the lift system. As all lifts in each core serve all floors, the travel times for each lift can be high as they travel the full vertical rise of the building. To overcome the resultant impact to the passenger waiting interval time, greater lifting capacity was required. To achieve this, all lifts operate a Destination Control Service from a common lobby area incorporating multiple control stations.

Figure 5. Night rendering

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
Aldar Headquarters

2011 CTBUH Awards Book

The CTBUH would like to thank MZ Architects for their assistance with this article. Photography © MZ Architects