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Sudhakar uPVC Windows and Doors

“Façade Integrated Intelligent Shading System & BIPV are the Latest Trends in UAE”

By: Subraya Kalkura, John R Harris Partners, The Middle East

Tell Us About Your Practice and Design Approach?

John R Harris & Partners is one of the first European practices to operate in the ME region with the founder of the practice late John R Harris establishing the practice in UK in 1949. In 1960s, John R Harris & Partners were invited by then Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum to develop a master plan for the rapidly growing city of Dubai.

Since the establishment of Dubai offices in 1960s, the practice has been delivering several significant projects in the region, which include Dubai World Trade Center, Ruler’s Diwan, Dubai Hospital, Al Baraha Hospital, and recent landmark projects including LOB Tower 17 & 18 in JAFZA, Mirdiff 35 Mall, and currently the under construction Sports Society Shopping Centre. The practice has recently joined forces with Aukett Swanke Group Architects – UK, which has greatly increased our ability to deliver large, diverse regional and international projects.

Our design approach for each project is a response to its unique, brief, social, cultural, climatic and economic context in which it is sited. We do not have a house style as such, therefore each project is unique in terms of the architectural character.

Matrix Tower, Dubai Sports City
Matrix Tower, Dubai Sports City

What Inspired you to Become an Architect?

The notion that architecture is an integration of art and science appealed me during the early years of my education, which subsequently led to my decision to pursue a career in architecture.

My realisation that architecture not only deals with the design of buildings but at its macro level, it deals with design of the indoor & outdoor built environment in which we live, work, commute, socially and culturally engage with others further reinforced my decision to take up architecture. I presume you connect a lot of art and architecture in your projects.

Founder’s Memorial – Abu Dhabi is a recently completed project where we collaborated with an Artist, which resulted in a very novel Architecture.

The project was conceptulaised by the American sculptor Ralph Helmick as an artwork held and framed by a minimalistic stone pavilion. The artwork, one of the largest of its kind, created a three-dimensional image of Sheikh Zayed out of suspended geometric shapes known as ‘Platonic Solids’ held in position by steel cables. We designed and engineered stone clad frame around the sculpture that would act as a foil to the intricate sculpture.

Please Tell about your Projects Featuring very innovative and Different Kinds of Façade and Fenestration Designs.

Dubai World Trade Center
Dubai World Trade Center

Early projects of the practice in the region clearly reflected the ethos of the practice – climatic and cultural response expressed through distinctive façade treatment. Careful orientation of the windows in the Trade Centre Building, Dubai ensures minimum direct solar exposure from southern, western and eastern sides.

The double skin façade consisting of concrete external skin ensures that the external windows are well set-in and are adequately shaded. Reference to Islamic arches in the windows is a testament to regional architecture.

Mirdif 35, a community mall located within the precinct of Mirdif, Dubai is one of the examples where we well integrated concept of the “wellness” in the community oriented projects.

The unique strategies that we adopted in the project pertaining to façade & external envelope include – articulation of the glazing on the façade to maximise daylight penetration into retail and community spaces, use of green roofs, and feature metal screens on the façade adopting Biophilic forms.

DIMC Boat Store: Otherwise, a normal boat storage facility, due to its prominent location in Dubai Marina, imposed the need for a vibrant façade treatment. Ripple in the waters of the Marina was replicated on the façade using angled, randomly sized aluminium panels that shimmer in the sunlight, while carefully designed façade lighting substantially enhances the façade at night.

Though the use of timber-framed glazed windows are relatively rare in this region due to extreme climatic condition, we have successfully used timber framed windows with weather-resisting aluminium external covering in few luxury residential projects.

DIMC Boat Storage Facility, Dubai Marina by John R Harris and Partners DIMC Boat Storage Facility, Dubai Marina: Randomly Sized Aluminium Panels Forming a Vibrant Façade

The large private villa that the practice was commissioned at the Palm Jumeirah Island used glue laminated timber framed curtain walls upto 10m high, further high quality glazing used in the project brought down the overall U-value to 1.1 W/m2K while maintaining a high visual transmittance to ensure good quality daylight in the interior spaces.

Use of timber framing for the windows was consistent with the biophilic theme of the project, which involved large scale internal green walls installed in the central atrium of the residence well-lit through the large skylight above the atrium.

Our recent project, Sports Society mall in Mirdif, Dubai, features a dynamic LED façade that will showcase popular sports events as well as being used for advertising.

Samanea Mall is another project currently under design development stage, which incorporates a feature skin spanning across the façade and the roof inspired by the form of sand dunes in the desert providing a second layer of shading to the building.

Could you Please Tell us about the Latest Façade and Cladding Technologies and Materials Available in the UAE Market and Those you Used in your Project?

Mirdiff 35 Mall, Dubai by John R Harris and Partners Mirdiff 35 Mall, Dubai: Façade Integrated Metal Screens Adopting Biophilic Forms

Among the latest façade and cladding innovations which the UAE market has adopted in the recent past, the notable ones are façade integrated intelligent shading system, building integrated photovoltaic and façade integrated digital display system. Our upcoming project “Sports Society in Mirdif” showcases large sized digital display screens integrated with the façades which is a good example of retail aspect integrated with the building design.

What are the Key Factors to Consider while Designing and Installing Fenestration?

Clarion School, Dubai
Clarion School, Dubai : Use of Bamboo Screen on the Façade

Location & size of the fenestrations in a building depends on the level of daylight intended in the indoor spaces, orientation with reference to sun path and prominent views and vistas around the building.

The technical aspects to be considered while designing and detailing the fenestrations include characteristics of the glazing such as thermal transmittance value, shading coefficient, visual transmittance, active and passive shading devices to adequately shade the window and to control the glare.

Could you Please Brief on the Technological Benefits of the Well-Managed Façades?

Well-designed and managed façades optimise the energy use of the buildings by minimising the heat gain through the façade, while providing adequate daylight in the interior spaces to minimise the requirement of artificial lighting. A well-maintained façade also ensures total airtightness, minimising any chances of infiltration losses, which becomes crucial, especially during the hotter months of the year.

What are Your Views on the Future Façade and Fenestration Technologies as well as Materials?

Sports Society Mall, Mirdif Dubai by John R Harris and Partners Sports Society Mall, Mirdif Dubai : LED Display integrated Façade

With the sustainable design gaining wider acceptance by developers, authorities and the public, the building façades are also expected to reflect the same principles of design. The building façades which adopt biophilic principles are being favoured with the use of natural material such as stone and timber, green roofs, integration of plating and vegetation on façades.

One of the fundamentals of the sustainable design is the adaptability to accommodate changes. Building façades & fenestration technology needs to accommodate the same principles – adaptability to change as per change in the building functionality.

Highly efficient and high-tech materials used in the façade are expected to minimise heat gain/ loss and generate partial/full energy required for the functioning of the buildings – essentially turning buildings to energy neutral.

How do you go About Choosing Materials for Façade and Cladding?

Rulers Court, Dubai Rulers Court, Dubai : Distinctive Arched Windows, Traditional Metal Screens of Façade & Wind Towers – A Contemporary Reinterpretation of the Regional Architecture

The selection of the material for façade and cladding depends on a number of criteria, including functionality, aesthetic consideration, commercial imperatives, thermal performance and often on site context. We often try to identify the overriding criteria to select the façade and cladding materials.

What is Your Advice for Young and Upcoming Architects?

For the young architects, I would strongly recommend obtaining an all-round exposure to the design industry prior to choosing one’s specialisation. For architects, a first-hand experience of the full life cycle of a project from first sketch on the tracing sheet up to execution of the full project at site can be a very gratifying and great learning experience. I would suggest young architects shall strive for such enriching experience.

Subraya Kalkura, John R Harris Partners, The Middle East


Subraya Kalkura is an experienced Architect having worked in a wide range of projects in the UAE and the ME region over past 18 years. An avid academician, gold medalist for academic excellence in architecture discipline from Mangalore University, India in 2001, he has secured MSc in Sustainable Design of Built Environment from Cardiff University in 2012. Subraya currently leads Architecture and Engineering Studio of John R Harris Partners in Dubai, which is part of Aukett Swanke group UK. With a passion for sustainable design, he has contributed to several large projects of the practice as a sustainability advisor. Notable projects that he has worked/led includes HSBC Bank refurbishments across UAE, Deutsche Bank refurbishment - KSA, Retail Developments in Dubai Festival City, Hill Side Housing - Dubai Festival City, Sharjah English School, Safa School and various ultra-luxury private villas in Palm Jumeirah and Emirates Hills - Dubai.

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