It looks like Bankok-based Aesthetic Architects have taken the old adage—"When in Rome, do as the Romans do"—to heart in its design of a new building in Qatar's desert-like environment. In fact the firm is borrowing some key ideas from an expert desert-dweller: the cactus.
The entire structure greatly resembles a technologically-savvy cactus plant, and it's being built for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture. But the shape of the building isn't really its secret. It's the structure's skin. Instead of going for an uber high-tech, environmentally nasty air-conditioning system, the architects are indulging in a little biomimicry. Specifically they're borrowing an idea from the cactus stomata, the "pores" that the plants breath through: To cope with the arid, hot desert environment, cacti usually open these only at night when it's cooler. Hence the MMAA's new building in Doha will have a sequence of smart shutters over its entire bulbous exterior, and these will open and close automatically to keep the interior of the building within comfortable temperature levels.
The building will even have an attached "biodome" structure. This will be packed with plants, each busily converting CO2 into oxygen and adding to the overall "green" aesthetic. Of course the plants alone don't do very much, and the environmental cost of keeping them watered and fed in an essentially alien environment makes the actual eco-friendliness of this part of the design questionable. Still, although the overall plan doesn't appear to have the eco-credentials of the fabulous Azerbaijan Zira Island plan, with its zero carbon footprint, photovoltaics and water-recycling, it's great to see a bit of ecologically-careful thinking employed in a nation with oil-based wealth.