As part of the American University of Sharjah, the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) aims to ‘develop and manage an innovation ecosystem that promotes Research and Development and supports enterprise activities and the triple helix collaboration of industry, government and academia.’
In line with the mission statement of SRTIP, the design team from ROAR looked to create a design narrative with an example of innovation that holds homage to the local environment. It was found with the Falaj system – an innovative technology to bring life to the environment 5000 years ago by bronze age settlers. Translated from Arabic ‘Aflaj’ meaning ‘split into parts’ the irrigation system evenly divided water between farms, therefore it is known as Falaj. With the ethos of the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park to produce innovative ideas and exciting enterprises, the Falaj systems ancestral technique was a natural inspiration in a time when the biophilic design trend is at it’s peak.
Biophilic inspiration was incorporated throughout the building. Features include a 3D wooden bench, ‘cloud’ light and staircases structured to appear to flow past each other, mimicking water, as visitors move from one atrium to the other. All ingenious design aspects are in addition to the integration of foliage, as homage to the life the Falaj system brought the settlers centuries ago. The careful consideration during specification to stay true to the design intent was found even in the washrooms, a full supply solution delivered by Sanipex Group.
To pair the best of traditional influences with modern innovations the specification was one of careful consideration. Terrazzo slab tiles are reminiscent of the rocks where the Falaj system once ran, whilst the open trough design to the basin mimics a stream of running water. The specification of Dolphin and Aquaeco touchless taps and infrared soap dispensers were incorporated to ensure that the SRTIP upholds the highest standards of hygiene and integrates the newest technologies, reflecting the institutes intentions.
“We started with a story. We based the entire design around the falaj system of irrigation, that’s been the source of life for communities in the deserts around Sharjah for 5,000 years. Once you crack this guiding designing narrative – and let me tell you, that’s not a simple process – then everything fits together.”
–Pallavi Dean of ROAR