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Vincent Callebaut Architectures have shared with ARCH2O this project, called Solar Drop. Located at the end of a long breakwater off the coast of Abu Dhabi, it is something of a paradox, several times over.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

The paradox begins with its existence as an artificial island in times of rising sea waters. It doubles over itself with the complex itself, which has been designed for luxury and relaxation and is home to several layers of green technologies and ecological mindedness. These include the huge, spiraling array of PV cells on the roof; over 2500 m² of what the architects call ‘plant pillows’- which dehumidify and cool the air through their respiratory cycles; access lighting powered by wind turbines; and the fostering of a totally new coral reef around the artificial island. This last one is the one that takes the cake. Reefs are extremely important to the health of our oceans and they and they’re destruction often go unnoticed. The paradox does one final loop when the location is taken into consideration- Abu Dhabi being the Emirate with the oil.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

It is an interesting paradox that oil rich countries are leading the way, in many cases, towards the future of energy production and consumption- while oil dependent countries do close to nothing, unless you count blowing hot air as energy production. The trouble is, someone, somewhere is probably finding a way to make a profit out of that hot air. And good for them. This project is interesting because it is a paradox, but it is even more interesting because of what it says about the future of building, incorporation, and self-sufficiency. Below, is a further description by the architects.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect


The aquatic complex is implanted on an artificial island in Abu Dhabi, a polder measuring 100 meters by 100 meters, at the end of a 500 meters long breakwater. The purpose of the project «Solar Drop» is to maximize the magnificence of this exceptional site thrown on the Sea of Oman.

To free the skyline from the carrier points of the construction, the project mainly bases on an enormous structural dome which spreads in the space as a flower taking root at the center of the island. This flower consists, in fact, of 2 coupled spiral domes. Indeed, the convex superior dome is covered with 16 spirals of photovoltaic cells, whereas the concave lower is papered with 16 vegetable spirals.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

In the center of this spinning flower, made of laces of steal with Arabic patterns, is situated the agora of Panoramic Majlis which allows one to reach every function. In the heart of the project, this mineral and aquatic agora is a haven of peace and freshness which welcomes visitors and guests in an exceptional setting. To better assume the profiles of the breakwater, these 2 central domes metamorphose in an immense droplet in sustentation. It becomes, from then on, a generous panoramic canopy cantilevered above steams. All the island is protected from the sun to better develop the inter-connectivity between the internal and outer spaces and multiply the roads of walk in this warm and dry country.

To better take advantage of the marine ecosystem, the suites are designed as aquatic lodges built close to the water. They all align themselves respectively with a radial plan bound by an arc of a circle 350 meters in diameter, floating in the sea. Inside this circle, a new coral reef will be cultivated by aquatic gardeners. Besides the fact of benefiting from a total symbiosis with marine fauna and flora, this off-centered establishment allows every suite to take advantage of a total calm, shielded from the noise pollution of the complex.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect


 All around the heart of the flower, spread 3 thematic petals which group together the 3 main functions of the program : the Majlis and its reception hall, the spa and its thermal cure center, and finally the indoor / outdoor swimming pool of fresh water. These 3 petals are built in overhang on a base welcoming parking lots, logistic premises such as central kitchens and their reserves, technical premises of swimming pools as well as reservoirs of organic substrata necessary for gardens. This layout in balcony allows to strengthen the visual connection between man and sea, and offers fields of sight diving into marine depths.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

North petal, the most shaded, is dedicated to the Majlis and its dining-room, overhanging the sea. It offers magnificent views in deep turquoise and emerald colors, towards the horizon. South-East petal shelters the big swimming-pool of fresh water in direct link with the white sand beach protected from prevailing sea currents coming from the North-West. Finally, South-West petal turns itself to the slept of the comforting sun, to implant there Turkish baths, sauna, hammam and other spaces for relaxation.

Between these 3 petals of glass and steel, which are outlined under the concave dome, 3 tropical oasis come to create shaded atmospheres dedicated to stroll. Indeed, palm trees, banana trees, orange trees, and orchids free their aromas for the pleasure of senses. These 3 gardens will particularly allow to filter partially and naturally the water of the aquatic ponds by phyto-purification.


The sensual and dynamic dress of the project «Solar Drop» symbolizes the integration of renewable energies to make of Majlis in Grain Al Aish a new emblem of green architecture in Abu Dhabi! In this perspective, the solar roof is chiselled of more than 7500 m² of bluish single-crystal solar panels as well as of 2500 m² of plant pillows absorbing the humidity of the air and cooling the complex by evapotranspiration of plants. The Majlis is a building with positive energy ; that is to say producing more energy than it consumes. In the same overview, the access road in the complex is punctuated with twenty axial wind turbines of Darrieus type which will allow one to illuminate in self-sufficiency this breakwater and its accesses, by taking advantage of the strength of prevailing winds.

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Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

SOLAR DROP is thus a project eco-conceived from the renewable energies which glorifies the Arabic culture on this bank of the Sea of Oman. It is an ode to the fluidity which militates for the protection of local marine ecosystem and for its development. It is a natural case which hatch within a dry region to propose a unique aquatic experience. It is an oasis of peace and happiness to be shared !

Vincent Callebaut Architect

Courtesy of Vincent Callebaut Architect

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