ROAR has created the interior of American University of Sharjah’s new Research Technology and Innovation Park. Designed to encourage a dialogue between academia and industry to generate innovative ideas and produce thriving new enterprises, the campus – spanning over 25,000 sqm – encompasses two large atriums, several leasable offices for startups and incubators, anchor offices for blue-chip tenants and the AUS RTI HQ offices. The majority of the space is dedicated to co-working areas for the AUS students and faculty working on entrepreneurial ideas including maker-spaces, exhibition spaces and an auditorium alongside ancillary zones such as meeting rooms, seminar and multipurpose halls, a gymnasium as well as a creche. The building has two distinct atriums, each interpreting the Falaj concept through dramatic design statements. The 18 metre-wide domes in each atrium are adorned with organic-shaped metal grids at different levels, creating an illusion of movement for the visitor when passing through the space. Two large stretch fabric clouds – parametrically-designed and suspended from an imposing height of 30 metres – are the standout design feature of the first atrium; these echo the flowing lines of the Falaj system. Weighing close to a tonne, ROAR worked in close collaboration with the contractors to realise the ideal suspension system with minimal structural and design impact to the clouds.

“The design narrative is inspired by the ancient falaj irrigation system, which was first used in Sharjah 5,000 years ago by Bronze Age settlers. The falaj system gave life to communities, allowing them to grow crops in the desert. This ancestral technique resonated with America University of Sharjah Enterprises’ central mission, which is to be a catalyst for the development of problem-solving innovations. We wanted the interior design to bring this story to life in multiple ways. It is incorporated into the core of the building in that it inspires both the circulation and space planning.’ ~ Pallavi Dean, Founder and Creative Director at ROAR.

The second atrium is the green atrium. Again inspired by the Falaj method, the slab edges were treated with a 3D metal mesh feature with meandering rod forms. A feat which took over five months from rigorous design development to installation, this architectural feature is composed of over 11,000 metal rods, totalling an overall length of 54,000m. Interspersed with plants and indoor lawns, biophilia was introduced to positively impact the experience of people using the space. The leasable offices overlooking the atriums, have also been treated distinctively – from the use of concrete texture paint and terrazzo flooring to the 3D mesh, warm wood surfaces and titanium cladding with polished concrete to complement the clouds, all elements form a calming, minimalist colour palette. While many of the spaces in AUS RTI building are playful, in contrast, the RTI offices are clearly recognised as a bridge to the corporate world. The HQ reflects an elegant, mature and sophisticated design language followed through with dark timber surfaces complimented with mesh laminated glass partitions and bronze accents. ROAR was appointed by AUS Enterprises, an organisation which connects businesses with academic research from the American University of Sharjah.