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The studio’s premise called for the conceptual design of a set of four visiting center buildings marking the arrival point of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Mastaba project for the United Arab Emirates. The site is located in the vast UAE desert. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Mastaba project was conceived in 1977 and is planned as a work of art made of approximately 410,000 horizontally stacked oil barrels secured to an inner structure. One of the important aspects for such a massive structure in the desert is the supportive infrastructure, a point of arrival and visiting center.

The students had the challenge to develop a group of buildings with various functions to resemble an oasis-like visiting center, 1.5 kilometer away from the future Mastaba site. The harsh climatic desert condition and the vast fluid, sand landscape poses fundamental architectural and formal question on how to plan and design for a remote desert destination point. The students researched the dynamics of the ever-changing dune landscape as well as traditional approaches to building in the desert with the aim to find a new contemporary reaction to the site conditions. A further important aspect was the atmospheric and visual value of greenery and water elements as these are luxury elements in the desert. The resulting four projects combined assembled the new visiting center, a contemporary oasis to the Mastaba.

The students had the honor to meet Christo over the course of the semester and present their concepts.