The grand prize in the international architectural competition to design the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) Federal National Council’s (FNC) New Parliament Building Complex has been awarded to Ehrlich Architects, the Los Angeles, California, design firm. On Jan. 5 the competition’s Special Jury Committee announced the selection of Ehrlich Architects as the winning competitor. Fourteen firms representing nine countries had been invited in early 2010 to submit entries in Phase 1 of the competition for the new FNC building. A short list of four finalists was selected to continue to the more detailed Phase 2: Ehrlich Architects (USA), Foster + Partners (UK), Massimiliano Fuksas Architects (Italy), and Zaha Hadid Architects (UK). Ehrlich Architects (who teamed in Phase 2 with U.A.E.-based architecture firm Godwin Austen Johnson [GAJ], landscape architects ValleyCrest Design Group, Gifford structural engineers, MEP engineers Scott Wilson Group, and quantity surveyors Baker Wilkins & Smith) created a scheme for the FNC’s New Parliament which embodies the unique identity of the United Arab Emirates: a modern society moving boldly into the future while retaining a strong connection to its history and traditions. The winning entry for the new Parliament building melds familiar Arabic design language with contemporary form and the latest technological advances, creating meaning, maximum functionality and environmental sustainability. The design is anchored by a striking 100-meter-diameter dome structure, a soaring “flower-of-the-desert” which will create a shaded micro-environment while casting Islamic patterns of dappled light onto the white marble Assembly Hall. The flanking Parliamentary buildings that house the majority of the offices, meeting halls, and visitors’ program, abstract the colors and textures of desert sand; the exterior expression of these structures is indebted to local historic buildings. In total, the complex will be a proud landmark for public gatherings as well as a model for conservation of the region’s precious resources.
The site of the new Parliament conveys its significance as a public institution. It is located on Abu Dhabi Corniche, one of the grand processional boulevards in the country’s capital, where important civic events and celebrations take place. Facing the Arabian Gulf, the body of water shared by six of the seven Emirates, the new FNC complex will establish a governmental face at the seafront. Its dome will be visible for miles across the water and will glow dramatically at night.