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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Istanbul Disaster Center in Turkey by DRA&U

December 21st, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: DRA&U

Given the particular nature of the programme described in the competition brief, our proposal focuses on the realisation of a visually striking building that also represents a challenge to traditional architecture and engineering. Beginning with these objectives, and given the primarily didactic nature of the new Centre, it was our belief that the building’s main focus should be that of involving visitors. To avoid the design of a horizontally and vertically rigid, and thus monotonous work of architecture our proposal focuses on the creation of an educational loop that develops in two directions simultaneously.

Bird Eye View

  • Architect: DRA&U
  • Name of Project: Istanbul Disaster Center
  • Location: Istanbul, Turkey

The building thus becomes a total experience for its visitors: circulation takes place inside a series of continuous flows linked with the succession of spaces used for demonstrations and simulations situated along a series of ramps connecting the different levels of the building. A careful study of lighting, in particular from natural sources, is a very important part of the project; natural light filters into the various interior spaces according to necessity, modulated by the brise soleil wrapping the circulation paths that resembles the gills of a fish. The surface of the building is raised up, allowing the appropriate quantity of natural light to filter inside. An analogous system is also used in other areas of the building. The exterior landscaping has been designed to separate the parking area from the pedestrian entrance, consenting an increased flow of visitors arriving in private vehicles or using public transport.

Exterior View

The building features two pedestrian access points along the north-south axis. The figure-eight shape of the plan defines two open spaces for public gathering, with the point of union characterised by the intersection of two paths of circulation at +6.00 meters above grade. The main entrance situated along the east façade provides access to a large foyer featuring the ticket counter, café, restaurant, public services, technical spaces, waiting room, elevators and the large heliocoidal staircase. In the western part of the building, the ground floor contains the requested office spaces, accessed via a totally independent entrance. This layout ensures the separation between administrative staff and the Center’s public activities, with a connection between the offices and the Centre provided on the first floor.



The path of demonstration spaces begins at +4.50 meters, with various display rooms and orientation spaces creating the first part of the educational loop. The same level also features the seminar rooms, a space for children and the shelter. A ramp leads down to +3.50 m, providing access to the second display and demonstration area hosting the simulation rooms. A second ramp leads up to +9.00 m, where visitors will find a digital library, conference rooms, an exhibition space and the planetarium. This distribution consents the independence of the various functions along the educational loop, (when necessary), while simultaneously ensuring that they are an integral part of the Centre itself. After travelling the entire loop, visitors are offered the choice to return to the foyer using the elevators or the heliocoidal staircase.


Interior View

One of the project’s primary objectives is the realisation of an energy efficient and bio-sustainable building. The plant systems were designed to ensure minimum energy loss and passive self-regulation, naturally exploiting bio-climatic elements to minimise the active contribution of primary energy sources. To optimise the global efficiency of the entire system, the proposal employs innovative low enthalpy geothermal systems to produce thermal energy for air conditioning.


Exterior View

Energy for heating and cooling is simultaneously produced by 2 heat pumps: • heat pump n. 1 is a polyfunctional air/water unit installed on the roof; • heat pump n. 2 is a polyfunctional water/water unit, located in the ground floor technical room. The “polyfunctional” units simultaneously feed a hot and chilled water loop, transferring heat between the two; the term air/water indicates that, in the event of extra power along one of the two “water” loops, “air” is used as a fluid to disperse the excess power; the term water/water indicates that, in the event of extra power along one of the two “water” loops, “water” is used as a fluid to disperse the excess power.


Exterior View

ATES technologies The technology of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) was created as an alternative to the conventional use of low enthalpy geothermal sources to artificially condition large spaces. This technology utilises the energy naturally present in an aquifer, in addition to offering the possibility for the long-term storage of thermal energy, which can be used to supply successive cycles of air conditioning. Water extracted from special wells circulates in a heat pump that extracts heat from/to the building (summer or winter cycle) via the air conditioning system. Water is then re-injected into the aquifer, creating two volumes: one warmer and one cooler. The simple inversion of the cycle of extraction and re-injection converts the heat pump from a source of heating to a source of cooling.



The volume of available storage is a direct function of the porosity and thermal properties of each specific substratum and water table. To respect the thermal equilibrium of the aquifer, the proposed system employs a series of auxiliary equipment to integrate the energy needs of the building and mitigate eventual environmental impact. The Ground-Air Heat Exchanger To guarantee the optimal management of the air conditioning systems and subsequent comfort levels inside the polyfunctional space, the choice was made to naturally ventilate the foyer and circulation spaces during evening-nighttime hours, primarily during the summer months, using an innovative geothermal ground-air heat exchange system.



The temperature and relative humidity values for this space of transit can differ from those adopted in spaces where comfort levels are conditioned by lengthy stays; what is more, conditioning systems can be operated at night, or when the Centre is closed. This helps to decrease the inertia of the system and attenuate the impact of artificial air conditioning when the system is turned back on (morning/afternoon). To meet these needs and simultaneously avoid excessive running costs, the project employs focused and innovative solutions in the design of circulation spaces, exploiting free cooling technologies inside the Centre through the careful study of fluid dynamics.


First floor plan

Special ground-air heat exchangers, composed of a system of horizontal piping, provide fresh air to the primary common space inside the building. Here the large skylight atop the heliocoidal stair functions as a solar chimney by exploiting the capacity of the particularly humid local terrain to accumulate energy at the foundation level (without additional excavation costs). This system allows for a reduction in costs, a cooling effect on supply air during summer months and (if desired) heating, during the winter period. An anti-microbial lining inside the pipes of the ground-air exchanger ensures the cleanliness and quality of supply air. The use of the ground-air system for passive nocturnal cooling can be supported by a system of pumps providing: warm fluids at low temperatures (T=45°C) and cooling fluids (T=7°C) distributed by a 4-pipe system supplying end terminals fitted with variable speed fans.


Second floor plan

Air conditioning in large areas is to be provided by: • all-air systems for the foyers, education and display spaces, offices, planetarium, restaurants, etc.: conditioning equipment will be fitted with rotary enthalpy wheels to maximise heat recovery from external air; the quality of external air is managed by dedicated gauges; • underfloor radiant heating systems in washrooms and change rooms. A portion of required electrical energy will be produced by photovoltaic systems located on the main roof and eventually atop other accessible roof spaces. The energy produced will be utilised by the Centre’s various systems, and, in the event to excess energy, supplied to the power grid. Hot water for the kitchen, change rooms and washrooms will be supplied by solar panels located on the roof, supported by a condensation boiler in the event of insufficient solar energy.


Aluminium plating


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