The Edge Reinstated

A 1km long narrow strip of land has been acquired by the city during the expansion of Al Wahda Street – an important thoroughfare that runs through the heart of the downtown area – and was subject to a design competition held by Sharjah Department of Planning and Survey. Pragma’s winning proposal examines strategies meant to subvert ills prevalent in adopted strip development models by identifying a series of operations applied to activate this new edge.

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The design addresses four primary topics: Accessibility and Parking, Promenade and Public Realm, Land Use Patterns, Materiality and Constructability. These topics are addressed in a systematic and didactic manner applicable in other parts of the city where similar conditions are found. On street parallel parking is replaced with pocket parking enlarging the pedestrian promenade and easing traffic by eliminating double parking and uncontrolled drop-off points. Shopfronts step back from the edge of the plot in order to provide a variety of spill out areas along a generous pedestrian promenade. A vegetation edge is added between the pedestrian and vehicular zones to provide an increased sense of safety.

The architecture is composed of an aggregate of modular pavilions built of earth tone pre-cast concrete panels and GRC screens to control quality of construction and cost. The modularity provides enough flexibility to cater to a variety of uses. Colors were inspired by hues of the desert with slight variations in tones between adjacent buildings.

The intention is to inject other uses besides just retail to animate the edge throughout the day and across multiple seasons. That meant adding offices, art studios, and community facilities such as clinics, nurseries, and a variety of governmental services that would provide the footfall as well as places for work supporting the adjacent residential areas. Modules can be joined or separated based on use and need. They can be leased horizontally across floors or vertically as independent units.

Shade and breeze will be ensured through the use of open-work partitions, layered canopies, and an intricate network of alleyways and courtyards. Overlapping shadows are created by orthogonal geometries interlacing along multiple planes and elevations and creating the fifth façade of the building as seen from above by the neighboring towers.

Team: Ahmad Othman, Aneesh Illikkal, Eslam Salem, Mohamed Alsarif, Sarfaraz Ali, Monalyn Gelera

Client: Sharjah Department of Town Planning and Survey, U.A.E.

Collaborators: Landscape Architecture by Yoonju Kametani, Visualization by Dimatz

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