Its so hard to design buildings in this region, other than the copy-paste plastic garbage that usually comes out here.  A major reason for that is the lack of context.  There is barely any historical urban fabric to build within.  Dubai for example has its very rich old city around the creek and thats it.  Theres nothing wrong with that, it just that there isnt much to work with when ones approach is to respond to context.a02- ground floor plan

You typically get a large rectangular plot surrounded by other large rectangular plots, exactly the same size.  IF anything has been built on them, the are likely to be new, and most certainly werent designed to respond to any fabric except maybe that of the mighty dollar bill.

So I had to create my own context and derive my own lines.  Its admitedly artificial, but I need something to anchor the design in.  So I simply decided that whatever I did, I wanted to go against the existing fabric, albeit a weak one, which was a gridded suburban layout.  The client wanted a place that stood out and if there was anythign we learned from the ancient Greeks, it was  putting monumental buildings out of angle to evrything else.  What ends up happening is simply that anyone approaching the building sees it in a more dramatic 2 point perspective.  Everything is layed out based on this even the approaching driveway remaining intentionally perpendicular to the main road.  [ click on plans to enlarge ]

a03- first floor plan

I used a oasis [ i use that term loosely ] like a pivot joint in a machine.  It serves as an anchor for the rotation of the whole residential facility. I really loved this project because there was this overall broad-stroke layout as well as little details such as a part of that oasis creeping out the front under the screen and providing a great entrance feature.  The little offset island, the edgeless reflective pool, and even the aviary [ yes he wanted one ] which I wanted just off of the oasis.

I was given an absolutely massive brief, which included a separate majlis building [ par for the region ] and a smaller scale complimentary residence with a separate entrance.  My intention was for them to look as if they were part of a singular package, all placed within this rotate rectangle.  Even a small wall providing some privacy to the oasis’s shore [as well as showers] just barely suggested the outline of that rectangle.


I really love making these whitebox studies before they get rendered with materials.  Its when the design is purest and to be honest, I even find it aesthetically pleasing. All the lines are clear and I can check whether elements are within the general composition I have set no matter what their material.  Furthermore, you get a clearer idea of volume and space with the shadows the only contrast to the white.


My biggest influence in this respect is Richard Meier.  His buildings are just incredible studies of form, hierarchy, context, and transition of space.  He underlines this by successfully finishing his buildings, effectively as white boxes.

greyboxing1 greyboxing2

Gamers out there can probably catch another influence: Mirror’s Edge.  Mirror’s Edge was effectively a giant greybox, only white and with bright saturated colors to bring attention to places of interest.  Here I colored in major landscaping features: the artificial oasis, pools, grass planes, and jacuzzi.


This is another one of those projects where the final renderings had to be outsourced.  I simply did not have the time to do renderings any more with the other new responsibilities and project piling up [ pre-crisis of course ].  Which made my refresher with 3DS Max when learning from Matt, all the more welcoming.  Its good to get my hands dirty again.

It still was a great experiencing coordinating these renderings with people halfway around the world in Shanghai.  You talk to great people and develop a shorthand with those that you stick with.

a07- perspective

Another important element I try to consciously incorporate into my designs is delivering a sequence of scenes experiences.  The entrance, for example, is designed with that very much in mind.  It starts off with the off-set angle.  Its a simple monolithic closed-off facade reflective of the cultural tastes in the region.  But as soon as you turn around that wall you are treated to a series composed shots to attract you in.  Level designers will recognize such strategies.

First you are pulled in along a 1-point perspective corridor with the choice of entering the house on the right, or if your curiosity gets the better of you, continue down past the end of the house to find the view of the artificial oasis below.  The view frames a tiny island feature with a local desert tree.

a09- perspective

Internal organization is simple.  Private rooms above, public spaces below.  The spaces below are mostly open plan except that they are punctuated by closed objects containing functions such as toilets, coat rooms, a study, and a theater.  However, all spaces are placed in the middle to allow a non-interrupted view through the internal facade.

a08- perspective

Another feature that stands in the overall layout out are the series of free standing walls and screens used to occlude more private areas, such as the additional small house.  Some volumes are used for the same purpose, such as the service wings on the east.

Overall, the intention as the name suggests, was to provide a hidden oasis: a minimalistic yet compelling external shell, that held surprises on the inside.

a10- perspective

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