THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A BUILDING

There’s more than one way to skin a building. For instance, how about with salt?

San Francisco based firm, Faulders Studio has developed a sculptural tower proposal for the city of Dubai called GEOtube. The building was designed specifically for the unique environment of Dubai which is located close to Persian Gulf and has the world’s highest salinity for ocean water. The building features a large super structure which, over time, will grow a skin facade on its own – out of salt! Water from the adjacent Gulf will be misted onto the superstructure’s mesh using a gravity propelled system, continually feeding the skin and promoting its growth, resulting in a building skin that is entirely grown rather than constructed. And it’s done so using only local materials.

As the water evaporates, salt deposits will be left behind to form the building’s outer skin. Aggregating over time, the building’s appearance will transform from a transparent skin to a solid white plane, resulting in a specialized habitat for local wildlife. As studio founder, Thom Faulders, say himself, “GEOtube is unique in that it makes use of natural elements that typically are not considered of value architecturally.”

There has been some debate over how environmentally friendly this building will actually be given the amount of energy required to pump the water up the 558 ft. facade. But according to plans, the water will be transported to the building via an underground viaduct, which will utilize floating solar panels to pump the large volumes from the basement level to the rooftop. From the rooftop level, the water is then gravity-fed through a vascular pipe system from top to bottom.

One of the biggest questions, however, is how well this wall of salt will protect the building’s interior from overheating. It appears though, that the salt surface is not meant to function as a replacement for a traditional building envelope that keeps out weather. Instead, it becomes more of a secondary skin. The salt deposit skin for GEOtube would function as a highly visible surface that is integrated with local environmental conditions, but as the salt is not, by itself, weatherproof, Faulders has proposed the salt mesh be layered over a traditional window wall enclosure where necessary.

Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, it’s an enormous business and construction hub, known globally for its ambitious construction plan, developments and stunning architecture. While debatable as a successful long-term project, the GEOtube certainly is one to remind us to think outside the box and push the envelope of traditional building design confines. This project is definitely one to file away under “experimental!”

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