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ACME creates stone-fretted waterside square in Muscat

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Situated in the centre of Al Mouj Quarter on the western edge of Muscat, Marsa Plaza is a new urban space at the edge of the marina

The square links the main boulevard to the seafront promenade, opening out into the water and defined by a series of steps and shading canopies. It is designed to create a number of informal spaces, incorporating water features, seating terraces and an amphitheatre for performances.

The ground plane of the square, the walls of the buildings and the shading canopies have all been designed to create a single visual spatial identity, which is intended to blur the boundaries between the separate elements.

The materiality and patterns were developed to draw from the local context,. Local Omani stone is used and the patterns were developed from traditional geometries and vernacular types of mashrabiya screens and other elements of traditional Omani architecture.

131 acme 010 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

131 acme 010 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

Source: Francisco Nogueira

The screen patterns are also designed to maximise shading depending on screen angle and exposure, with variations in the grid to balance light and shade for each position.

The local stone that the project is constructed from is Desert Rose marble quarried in Oman. Steps in the square and joints are outlined in black granite to create the floor pattern, and locally-produced lightweight aluminium canopies and screens cover the outside seating areas.

Two restaurants are located behind shading screens, each divided into three separate volumes: a double-height glazed volume, a single-storey volume with roof terrace and a stone-clad kitchens volume. Their glazed façades are protected from the sun by screens and canopy overhangs that allow for a pleasant microclimate inside and reduce the need for climate control.

131 acme 016 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

131 acme 016 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

Source: Francisco Nogueira

Architect’s view

Muscat has very few formal open public spaces. ACME’s design for the Marsa Plaza proposes a new typology which is recognisable as a traditional plaza but is also a gently stepping amphitheatre looking out into the sea. Marsa Plaza has characteristics of classical European plazas – its geometrical formality and activation of the edges – combined with the shading and maze-like qualities that are typical of Middle Eastern places of gathering.

The canopies and walls are made out of factory-assembled aluminium panels that, rather than being welded together, have been fixed through the use of hidden tensioned steel cables, giving them a totally seamless appearance. The integration of the canopies, the landscape and restaurants with one strong and visually complex language give the whole project a sense of formal unity that is lacking in the area but very much a characteristic of Muscat as a whole.

Muscat Municipality has been slow in adopting internationally recognised standards for sustainability, so it was up to ACME to introduce strategies like making use of the prevailing winds from the sea to achieve a cooling effect, generating a parametric design for the canopy perforations that responded to shading needs and using locally sourced materials to minimise the carbon footprint of the project and maximise cost effectiveness. The use of lightweight powder-coated aluminium panels together with very robust stone finishes minimises the need for maintenance and promotes longevity in the sometimes harsh marine conditions.

Duarte Lobo Antunes , associate, ACME

 131 acme 022 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

131 acme 022 marsa plaza francisco nogueira

Source: Francisco Nogueira

Client’s view

Marsa Plaza was envisioned as the new heart of the Al Mouj community, providing green, shade, spaces to sit, talk, eat, play and enjoy the breeze from the sea. Designed with local Omani materials and patterns and built with local contractors, the space is contemporary in form but deeply rooted in the local context.

The spaces created by the structured floor, walls and canopies are simple to construct yet jointly create a complex and memorable space and identity for the community. Over the first summer, we have greatly enjoyed watching flaneurs pass by, restaurant guests eating out on the terraces, crowds of children play in the fountains, and to see performances on the stage facing the sea. We are delighted that Marsa Plaza has so quickly become the new heart of the community

Nasser Al Sheibani, CEO, Al Mouj Muscat

131 marsa plaza acme gf plan

131 marsa plaza acme gf plan

Source: ACME

Ground floor plan

Project data

Start on site September 2017
Completion date June 2019
Gross (internal + external) floor area 5,500m² (3,500m² public square, 1050m2 restaurants and cafés including terraces)
Form of contract or procurement route Design & Build
Construction cost £7.2 million
Architect ACME
Client Al Mouj, Sultanate of Oman
Structural engineer Muamir Design & Engineering Consultancy
M&E consultant T20 Engineers
Landscape consultant Parsons
Main contractor Dubai Metal
CAD software used AutoCAD

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Looks good, and if the canopies enhance life in the open air by tempering the combined heat and humidity of summers on the coast, very good indeed.
    The use of tensioned steel cables to fix aluminium panels has presumably been carefully detailed to avoid the problem of electrolytic corrosion in this climate.

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