The 1129 Residences-Oman is an intermediary settlement between two cultures; it is therefore a Western design as much as it is Omani, representing a diversity of spatial styles all integrated into a neighbourhood with a central piazza. Taking the site of a former equestrian center surrounded by villas and small apartments in Al-Hail, Muscat, this mixed use development comprises some 78 courtyard apartments, 88 townhouses and 26 garden villas arranged along an elliptical central space. Towards the periphery, the distribution of the low-rise houses together with the lateral passages were intended to underline the texture of the surroundings and maintain a harmony with it whereas around the elliptical central piazza, a heightened scheme of terraced serviced apartments, offices, a boutique hotel and retail units help to give specifity to the development’s scheme while at the same time emphasize the unity.
At the beginning of the first phase of design, the nature and building techniques of the Omani house in addition to conventions of creating an urban texture is studied thoroughly and translated into a modern day urban experience.
The traditional courtyard housing is interpreted in the expression of clusters where the systematic arrangement on a regular grid results in the potential of private gardens or terraces for each villa-townhouse or courtyard apartment. Both the street and courtyard façade of each building are treated as configurationally different, marked by a rather solid-private appearance at the former and a more porous-semi private one at the latter. The orientation of the units in the development provides a great measure of privacy and lively contact with the natural surroundings. The units are each accessed individually through cores placed at the outer centers. These prismatic blocks are each positioned differently to maximize both sunlight in the courtyards and enhance the volumetric articulation of the setting while at the same time being reminiscent of the wind-towers prevalent in the traditional architecture.
Climate, an important feature of the articulation of the traditional Omani house enters as a primal modifier of the skin of the buildings. The design has a strong Omani identity through its use of simple, local materials rooted in the arid landscape which characterises Muscat. The alternating textures of local stone both at the facades and in the landscape design accentuates this unity .The strategic treatment of courtyard facades within each cluster creates outdoor spaces with varying degrees of access and privacy. These intermediary spaces act as a buffer between the buildings and the natural landscape. Entirely clad with lamellas that form, together with their slender structure, a ‘surface’ with varying depth, these spaces act as spatial layers between interior and exterior in addition to their role in passive cooling. The result is an entirely two-faced complex, a sequence of courtyards varying in size and shape with shops, restaurants and cafes around the central one. On one hand, the concept can be seen as a contemporary complement to the historical building-culture and on the other as a multicultural response to newly adapted ways of living in Muscat.