HOK’s ADNOC headquarters in Abu Dhabi emphasises function over form

Parallelogram shaped structure on Abu Dhabi Corniche by HOK is designed to respond to the path of the sun for passive cooling.

Contrasting with the many twisting, turning shaped buildings in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) new headquarters embodies a “less is more” philosophy, say architects HOK.

The exterior frame of the 75-story tower is clad in granite to convey a sense of permanence to reflect the firm’s ethos, according to the design team.

“The sides rise to an architrave free of the building mass, creating the image of a monumental arch rising next to the Arabian Gulf. The tower’s simple, classic form serves as a recognisable focal point for people traveling to and from the city,” said the architects.

To provide the best solar orientation, HOK designed the headquarters in the shape of a parallelogram.

The tower’s north side faces the waterfront and is fully glazed to offer views and take advantage of the limited direct sunlight. The south side, where sunlight is stronger, incorporates finely produced glass with sun shades.

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 Cladding the east and west sides in granite screens the 65-story glass core from harsh sunlight. These strategies, combined with efficient building systems, help achieve LEED Gold certification standards.

The shape of the building footprint responds to the path of the sun. The side nearest the Arabian Gulf faces true north, providing for minimal heat gain and unobstructed views of the water through clear glass panels. Columns are located around 6m from the northern perimeter, thus allowing the structure to be cantilevered from this side and creating a completely unencumbered interior space.

The south side is coated in a double wall of insulated and porous glass along with horizontal sun shades that mitigate direct sunlight. An LED lighting system on this exterior enhances the tower’s presence at night. The lighting display can be programmed to change colour, patterns and intensity to mark holidays and special events.

The sides of the building facing east and west are sheathed in Bethel White granite [named after a mining town in Vermont], which was selected for its durability and consistent colour. These house service elevators, fire stairs and mechanical rooms. To preserve the architecture’s simple form and clean lines, they are carefully detailed so that access hatches, ventilation louvers and maintenance equipment are hidden from view.

The building can accommodate up to 4,000 ADNOC employees, who moved in between April and September 2016.

It is located on the Corniche, a seaside boardwalk with park areas and beaches that stretches along the city’s west side. The landscape around the building offers public amenities and ties into a planted area to the east, where there is an underground parking garage.

Adjacent to the new building are ADNOC’s 1970s headquarters and support buildings, which remained operational through the construction of the new structure.

The north-side building entrance features a large, stainless-steel canopy supported by a single column. The canopy repeats the triangular and parallelogram shapes of the building in its pattern of aluminum louvers. Complementing the design of this shading device is an angular reflecting pool in front of the entrance.

Designed to appear as a seamless glazed facade, the glass walls behind and above the canopy are supported by a structural steel cable system.

The team said it designed the workplace to inspire creativity, teamwork and critical thinking among ADNOC’s employees.

The architects said: “To provide flexible interior space, offices are laid out in a modular design.

“The main floor space is arranged to draw natural north light deep into the floor plate. Private offices are along the east, west and south core corridors. This leaves most of the floor plate for low workstations and creates a sense of a single, unified space with direct views of the sea. Conference rooms located at the southeast and southwest corners offer views over the city.

“On the top floor is an executive dining area with an outdoor terrace.”