3D PRINTED OBSERVATION TOWER
The staircase is the figurative and literal heart of the tower, whose structure must be imagined as a natural branching system. A harmonious and organic set of trajectories develops around each step and supports it, outlining a light and supple structure, where the central void is a protagonist.
The result is a vertical formation spontaneously generated by a swirl of sand: Immanent and concrete, the tower is purely a mill of air and sand, masses and voids, immortalized in a spiral that emerges from the desert. The outgrowth is closely connected with the desert itself, with which it shares materiality and colors.
The bifurcations are a vital and dynamic element of the structure; they reinforce the elements that make up the tower. As a result of these forces, we have a porous structure where the walls are dematerialized in a spiral colonnade. Each branch supports a step and the main platform, just as every natural formation has a cause and a purpose. The light is filtered by the alternation of masses and shades that create a protected cave at its core. Thanks to the bifurcations of the structure, the apertures that are generated throughout the whole surface give the visitors different opportunities to relate to the observed environment.
The tower is designed to be built with architectural 3D printing, thanks to the consultancy on technology provided by Concreative, a large-scale concrete 3D Printing company in UAE. The tower is divided into 2.5-meter portions printed in 2 cm shells. The components are printed in the factory by a 6-axis industrial robot under controlled conditions; the material used is a high-performance concrete, a cement developed explicitly for 3D printing applications by Concreative. Subsequently, the shells are moved to the building site and overlapped, in a very fast and lean process, with less workforce employment compared to traditional techniques. Finally, the structure is unified through a poured concrete in the main columns creating a monolith.
This operating mode allows a considerable saving of cement. The material used is characterized by high compacity and low permeability which allow good resistance to aggressive environments. The 3D printing technique gives the characteristic external layers pattern, which we decided not to cover in order to be a distinctive feature of the building and to better fuse the artifact to the surrounding environment.
In addition to the mentioned cement, we intend to use steel for other structural parts, in particular, the observation platform and the elevator. In addition, the whole walkable areas and the handrails will be in wood composite (wood pulp+PVC). Visually and at the touch, it looks a lot like wood, but with better strength and durability. We were inspired by the materials offered by Woodn, an Italian company expert in building materials for outdoor usage.
THE USER EXPERIENCE
This building is deeply connected with the natural and landscape context of the Al Wathba Wetlands Reserve and designed to make the area usable and enjoyable by humans while minimizing the impact on the territory and its integrity.
It is thought as a privileged point of view, in which the visitor could still perceive the atmosphere of the external environment. A walkway built in a wooden composite leads the visitor to the entrance of the tower, which can be accessed by going up the staircase or using the manual elevator positioned inside. This second option not only makes the building accessible to anyone, but it is a recommended experience for all visitors because it allows observing the internal transition, from the cave-like atmosphere to the enlighted top. The whole path and visit at the tower are fluid enough to be covered with mobility aids and wheelchairs.
The visitor can indulge in various observation points along the ascent path, both walking or from the elevator. Once at the top of the tower, the guest will find a platform that is a stall to the surrounding nature. The architectural space is lightened to make the reserve and its inhabitants absolutely protagonists. Shade and protection are guaranteed by a light membrane roof, that completes the shape of the building.