Contemporary Architecture

Iranian wind tower


  • Represents the ventilation as a sustainable cooling system in Iranian architecture.
  • To counter the harshly variable climates of the country, Iranians invented wind towers which still stand in various desert towns.
  • Important elements in Iranian architecture, providing air-conditioning in hot, dry and humid climates for thousands of years.
  • Rise not only on ordinary houses but also on top of water cisterns and mosques.


  • To introduce cool outside air, driven by positive wind pressure.
  • The internal partition allows the low pressure on the lee side of the tower to suck air from inside the building.
  • In order to provide occupants with comfort, they were built with a four-directional orientation to catch wind from all directions and guide it into the house.

Wind towers consist of four parts:

  1. The body containing shafts
  2. Air shelves which catch hot air and prevent it from entering the structure,
  3. Flaps which redirect wind circulation,
  4. A roof covering.


  • Wind travels through the shafts on top of the tower to reach the interior of the building.
  • The air flow inside the structure travels in two directions, up and down.
  • The temperature difference between the interior and exterior of a building causes pressure variations which results in the creation of air currents.
  • In cities where the wind blows only from one single direction, only one of the shafts operates to receive the breeze.

There are three types of wind towers:

  • The most elementary type of wind tower was built over cellars and underground water tanks known as ab-anbar.
  •  These cellars kept food refrigerated and also served as sitting rooms where people could remain cool on hot summer days
  • In hot climate cities, one to six wind towers were used to cool the water.
  • They prevented stagnant air and the formation of dew or humidity inside, resulting in pure, clean and cold water all year round.
  • The second type transferred the flow into the basement where it hit damp walls and its humidity increased while its temperature decreased. The flow could be directed into other rooms using valves.
  • The third type of wind tower was taller and mainly used in multi-roomed one-story buildings. A dome-roofed hall under the tower helped ventilation.
  • Wind towers display the compatibility of human-built architectural forms with the environment and the ingenuity of Iranian engineers.
  • Following the introduction of western architecture,  structures such as wind towers gradually became part of the past though many still remain in use.
  • Modern architecture can make use of traditional Iranian methods to utilize air currents and evaporation in cooling and air-conditioning living quarters.

Burj al-Taqa – The Energy Tower Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

  • Order Year: 2006-07
  • Estimated Investment: £200m
  • Height: 322m (1,056ft)
  • Construction Start: 2008
  • Design: Gerber Architeckten international


  • Dubai temperatures can reach 50°C, so the cylindrical shape of the building is designed to minimise exposure of the surface to the sun.
  • All energy is generated from wind turbines and solar panels; the main 60m (197ft) roof-mounted turbine
  •  The windows are protected from indirect sunlight elsewhere on the tower by a mineral coating, which also helps improve the effectiveness of the air conditioning.



  • The tower is constructed from cutting-edge vacuum glazed glass, which will be mass- commercialized in 2008, to reduce heat absorption and maximize the available daylight.
  • The central atrium and a five-perimeter atria contain transparent ducts that look like plastic cylinders running up through the ceiling on all levels of the building.
  • A double-skin glass façade protects the Solar Shield and helps to clear stale air from the rooms.

Talking of air conditioning, the main system for cooling the air inside the tower uses a convection system which pulls in cold air at the ground level, and sucks it up out of the top of the tower. The air conditioning will use seawater, and underground cooling units lower the temperature inside to 18 degrees C / 64.4 degrees F. This building may be a technological beacon for environmentally friendly skyscrapers, but as a commenter on metaefficient points out, new building designs don’t do much to solve the inefficiency of older buildings in cities. Although that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine what it’d be like to work and live in a sea of glass and metal without feeling slightly bad about it.

“Such a building has to work like a thermos flask,“ says DS-Plan’s energy manager Peter Mösle

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture – Masdar Headquarters

About the firm

  • The firm was founded in 2006 by partners Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest. Today there are more than 150 employees in offices in Chicago and Dubai.
  • The office is dedicated to the creation of new paradigms for sustainable development.
  • Design of high-performance, energy-efficient and sustainable architecture on an international scale.
  • Believe that the future of architecture relies not on a changing aesthetic but on the implementation of an integrated process, predicated on an equal understanding and consideration of each project discipline.

Adrian Smith

  • Adrian was a Design Partner in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill from 1980 to 2003 and a Consulting Design Partner from 2004 to 2006.
  • Design approach emphasizes sensitivity to the physical environment.
  • Projects under his design direction have won over 90 major awards for design excellence
  • His work has been featured in major museums in the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Gordon Gill

  • Prior to founding Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture in 2006, Gordon was an Associate Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and a Director of Design for VOA Associates.

Robert Forest

  • Was an Associate Partner in the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill before 2006
  • A recognized authority on the economics of sustainable design,
  • combined his knowledge to develop a system of best practices for the management of high-performance projects.


  • Architecture has a unique power to influence civic life.
  • A holistic, integrated design approach that emphasizes symbiotic relationship with the natural environment–a philosophy termed
  • “Global Environmental Contextualism.“
  • Consider building orientation, day lighting, generation of wind power, solar absorption, and a site’s geothermal properties
  • Also represents a fundamental change in the design process, in which Form Facilitates Performance.
  • Create structures that not only reduce their negative environmental impact, but in some cases, virtually eliminate it altogether.
  • Interaction among building systems as well as between those systems and the natural environment, and seeks to improve each individual system’s performance.
  • To create designs that aid society, advance technology, sustain the environment and inspire those around to improve our world.
  • To create intelligent, high-performance, forward-looking designs that exhibit timeless and enduring qualities.
  • To support the clients in the realization of their visions, while delivering the highest standard of design in the international practice of architecture.


  • Matrix Gateway Complex
  • Elphinstone Mills + Jupiter Mills,Mumbai, India
  • Eco-Bridge,Chicago, Illinois
  • Wings Museum

Characteristic Features:

  • Be the lowest energy consumer per square meter for a modern class A office building in an extremely hot and humid climate
  • Compared with typical mixed-use buildings of the same size, the Headquarters will consume seventy percent less water.
  • Feature one of the world’s largest building-integrated photovoltaic arrays
  • Employ the largest solar thermal driven cooling and dehumidification system – the world’s lowest impact active building conditioning system
  • Be the first building in history to generate power and protect workers during the construction process through a staged construction
  • Will go beyond zero net energy,  will be the world’s first mixed-use, large scale positive energy building.
  • The building will utilize pioneering, never-before-seen technology in the creation of the aesthetically sound, functionally proficient and experientially superior development that will represent the city.
  • Numerous systems that will generate a surplus of the building’s energy, eliminate carbon emissions and reduce liquid and solid waste.
  • Inspired from the centuries of indigenous architecture, historically successful building strategies for the climate with the latest technology and innovative building systems, including some developed especially for the Masdar Headquarters.
  • For exterior walls, Smith and Gill have developed their own patent-pending glazing system to keep the building’s interior cool.
  • The facility also will be equipped with wind turbines, air quality sensors, and a thermal-driven cooling and dehumidification system
  • Sprawling canopy lined with photovoltaics, resting on 11 massive glass hyperboloids. Underneath the canopy, a series of interconnected volumes, topped by green roofs, provide space for offices, retail stores, and residences.
  • Sustainable and efficient from the beginning of construction- the building cones and roof can be built first, creating a shaded micro climate for the remainder of the construction and the roof, covered with photovoltaic panels, will provide enough power to build the rest of the building.

Some Structural Details:

  • Thornton Tomasetti
  • Upper Trellis: Top Chord Bracing


  • As a positive energy complex, the project will have a far-reaching influence on the buildings of tomorrow
  • Will set a new paradigm for the way buildings are designed, constructed and inhabited.
  • Represents the perfect integration of architecture and engineering, resulting in a dynamic, inviting building that outperforms any other structure of its type in the world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Contemporary Architecture

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP (SOM) – Burj Dubai


  • Formed in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings; in 1939 they were joined by John O. Merrill
  • SOM has completed over 10,000 projects around the nation and in more than 50 countries around the world and maintains offices in all over the world
  • One of the largest architectural firms
  • More than 800 awards for quality and innovation
  • Expertise is in high-end commercial buildings
  • SOM was one of the first major modern American architectural firms to promote a corporate face of Architecture

Major Projects:

  • Freedom Tower
  • Trump International Hotel and Tower
  • Burj Dubai
  • San Francisco International Terminal,
  • Sears Tower
  • First Wisconsin Plaza
  • Haj Terminal, Jeddah
  • Weyerhaeuser Headquarters
  • John Hancock Center, Chicago
  • Wells College Library, Aurora
  • Air Force Academy Chapel
  • Lever House

Burj Dubai , 2009 , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Project Facts

  • Completion Year: 2009
  • Expected Height : 818 m
  • Floors : Around 162
  • Site Area: 1,121,707 ft2
  • Project Area: 5,000,000 ft2

Salient Features:

  • Its design is reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision for The Illinois, a mile high skyscraper designed for Chicago.
  • “The tower goes up in steps in a spiraling way. In Islamic architecture, this symbolizes ascending towards the heavens.” – Architect Adrien Smith,
  • The building resembles the bundled tube form of the Sears Tower, but is not a tube structure.
  • Has 26 Terraces
  • A Y-shaped floor plan is inspired from the geometrics of the desert flower and the patterning systems employed in Islamic architecture (Onion Dome).
  • According to SOM Burj Dubai was designed based on the 73-floor Tower Palace Three, an all-residential building in Seoul, South Korea