For retail block of the W21-22 plot, the second of our five Baku White City Developments, we designed a self-standing urban actor that is equally rooted in Baku’s cultural identity as it is in the city’s urban fabric. Similar to Baku’s archetypical buildings, such as the Caravanserai or the Bazar, we wanted to show the arch as a persevering architectural leitmotif. Baku’s geographical identity as the City of Wind adds more layers to the concept design of the building. Like a rock that is carved over years by the wind, the volume of the building looks as though it were shaped into a prismatic and reflecting surface: an urban kaleidoscope. With a special ceramic cladding, the materialization of the façade speaks a clear modern language with reference to local archetypes. The development of this façade played a pivotal role in shifting our design thinking, as it was the first building we developed to be covered in a ceramic cladding.
The building site is embedded geographically in the infrastructural network of Baku’s White City, as it sits on one of Baku’s most important traffic routes. The urban flow that connects the historical Old City with the new White City is situated next to the commercial heart of the new development. The retail potential of the ground floor responds to the opportune location of the building within the urban fabric. Anchor retailers can make use of the northern facades that are exposed to the main road that have optimal visibility. The reflective cantilever at Nobel Avenue attracts attention from the pedestrian boulevard along this important traffic artery, and gives the building a defined orientation. The pace of the West side and the South street, which are calmer and more pedestrian friendly, resonant with the western and southern interiors of the block, encouraging a slow window shopping atmosphere.
A working landscape of natural daylight and façade ventilation on the top floor of the building create an excellent professional atmosphere on the upper floors, with floor plans that allow for a high level of flexibility. Furthermore, a sustainable heating and cooling system in the form of a soil collector can be located in the building’s base, with boreholes depths of 100 to 200 meters. The collector would fulfill the dual function of heat source in the winter, and heat sink in the summer.
W21-22 Retail Building
UNStudio Ben van Berkel, Gerard Loozekoot with Frans van Vuure and Filippo Lodi, Roman Kristesiashvili, Tina Kortmann, Jan Kokol, Harlen Miller, Nemanja Kordić, Benjamin Kolder, Chenqi Jia, Alex Kalachev, Thomas van Bekhoven, Machiel Wafelbakker Advisors Structure and MEP: STRUCTURAL Engineering Co. Ltd., Ankara