Zaha Hadid Architects win competition for Sharjah leisure hub inspired by falling water droplet

We look forward to applying all our knowledge and experience in creating some of the world’s most popular civic spaces
– Tariq Khayyat, Senior Associate and Head of Region-Middle East

Following an international competition, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) have been appointed to design the Central Hub of the Aljada leisure masterplan in Sharjah, UAE.

Development company ARADA is overseeing the enormous mixed-use project – one of the largest of its kind in the region – and organised the competition to find an architect for the 1.9 million sq ft (176,500sq m) Hub, billed as “a major destination for tourists and residents, offering world-class amenities complemented by community facilities as well as retail and dining experiences.”

The first phase will create “a lively, family-friendly destination” with a series of attractions, including an adventure activity zone, a food market and outdoor events spaces. A central observation tower will be surrounded by public squares with water features irrigated by recovered and recycled water.

ZHA’s winning proposal is inspired conceptually by “the moment a water droplet strikes the earth’s surface, captured in an array of elliptical buildings designed to channel prevailing winds into civic spaces and courtyards to facilitate cooling during the summer months.” Tensile canopies sustain a microclimate at ground level for extensive gardens of species native to the region.

“We are proud to partner with ARADA on a project designed for Sharjah’s community and its visitors,” said Tariq Khayyat, head of the Middle East region for ZHA. “We look forward to applying all our knowledge and experience in creating some of the world’s most popular civic spaces to foster Sharjah’s public realm in delivering Aljada’s Central Hub.”

ARADA chair, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, added: “ZHA are globally renowned for forward-thinking and transformational urban design. While all of the companies in this design competition offered outstanding designs, it was their integrated design approach that best matched our vision for Aljada’s Central Hub as an interconnected destination.

“This approach is synonymous with our mission to develop rewarding and engaging communities, building the Sharjah of tomorrow.”

The Aljada project – a 24 million sq ft (2.3 million sq m) residential and leisure community – was launched by the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, in 2017. It will be delivered in phases, beginning in 2019, with the entire project expected to be completed by 2025. Global engineering company CH2M has been awarded the infrastructure design contract for the project.

ZHA are working on a growing portfolio of high-profile mixed-use projects in the Middle East, including a cultural and research complex for a Unesco World Heritage site in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia; two leisure projects for Qatar’s Lusail City masterplan; and the Al Wakrah Stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The firm recently opened an office within the Dubai Design District in response to “solid growth in demand from new and existing clients across the region.”

In a statement, they said: “We are working with the many diverse histories and cultures of the region to address important issues in a meaningful way – contributing to the development of more ecologically sustainable and integrated built environments."

Zaha Hadid Architects  Sharjah  leisure  Central Hub  UAE  Aljada  ARADA  Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi  Tariq Khayyat 
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