NE[O]ASIS is a design idea challenge for future desert oases, directed towards combatting desertification through sustainable urban and architectural development.
The challenge aims to contribute urban/architectural/landscape solutions for the self-resilience of climatically challenged regions in deserts and drylands.
The challenge invites students and young practitioners to work in inclusive, women-led teams with members from various design disciplines, and to contribute with ingenious design ideas to new interpretations of traditional oasis systems. The challenge sites are set in locations across Australia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
The organisers thank all designers who will take on this challenge and contribute to Ingenious Initiatives for Sustainable Urban Development.
The Challege Sites
Outback Oasis / Australia
Hosted by Griffith University, Bond University and
The University of Queensland
Location: Remote Mesa, Winton, Australia
Island Oasis /
Hosted by Zayed University
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Urban Oasis /
Hosted by Effat University
Location: Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Hosted by UN-Habitat
Location: Ait BenHaddou, Morocco
In response to climate emergency and the threat of an ever-increasing desertification of large regions on the planet, and in alignment with the New Urban Agenda/Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs the Challenge calls for creative design ideas showing how a new interpretation of a self-sufficient oasis in desert regions around the globe could look like, feel and work: the neo-oasis 'NeOasis'.
Traditional oasis systems have been ingenious human-made examples of how sustainable design can mitigate harsh climates and resource scarcity in deserts, and how drylands can produce little socio-cultural thriving paradises (further refer to ‘Why the Oasis').
The design ideas for the 'NeOasis' shall be informed by traditional oasis knowledge and translated into the vision for a future looking version of a self-sustained oasis ( see 'Oasis as an Eco-System') at one of the four identified desert sites, in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Australia, which share similar bio-climatic conditions.
The respective 'NeOasis' design proposals respond to socio-cultural and bio-climatic conditions, with a view to progressively achieving adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, without discrimination, universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as equal access for all to public goods and quality services in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality and livelihoods.
The NeOasis meets the challenges and opportunities associated with future self-sustained urban development translating into architectural solutions/spatially a creative vision of how we will live, work, play and co-evolve in future desert oasis systems.
The NeOasis envisages new ways to meet the challenges and maximise the opportunities associated with self-sustaining urban development. Its architectural resolutions represent a creative vision for how we will live, work, play and co-evolve in future desert oasis systems.
The NeOasis must be developed at the neighbourhood scale (around 10 ha). Each team can select one of the possible locations in Australia, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
It is recommended that you introduce your team members, team vision and philosophy in line with the aims of Ingenious Women’s Initiatives for Sustainable Urban Development. A clear design vision, concept and proposal are expected to flow from your team philosophy.
NeOasis design proposals will respond to socio-cultural and bio-climatic conditions, with a view to progressively achieving the full realisation of the right to adequate housing as a component of the right, without discrimination, to an adequate standard of living – a standard which also promises universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, and equal access for all to public goods and quality services in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality and livelihoods.
Clear architectural, urban and landscape design concepts will address bio-climatic and socio-cultural aspects of the selected site, with an extension of approximately 10 ha. The creative design propositions must include the integration, rehabilitation and/or regeneration (as applicable) of existing buildings, parks, and infrastructure.
In response to climate emergency and the threat of increasing desertification of large regions of the planet, and in alignment with the New Urban Agenda/Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, the challenge calls for creative design ideas that show how a new interpretation of a self-sufficient oasis in the desert could look, feel and work: the 'NeOasis'.
Traditional oasis systems were/are ingenious human-made responses to harsh climate conditions and resource scarcity in deserts and drylands. They are examples of how sustainability-focussed design can produce small-scale socio-cultural thriving paradises (further refer to ‘Why the Oasis').
The design ideas for the ‘NeOasis' shall be informed by traditional oasis knowledge, translated into a forward-looking vision for a self-sustaining oasis at one of the four desert sites in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Australia – locations which share similar bio-climatic conditions.
Self-sufficiency of the NeOasis could be addressed through considerations of urban metabolism integration such as:
- Neo-Renewable Energy (How could the NeOasis be powered?)
- Neo-Networks (smart, digital, circular, yet humane city)
- Neo-Palm Grove (the date palm grove as agricultural system of the future)
- Neo-Food (How will the population of the neighbourhood eat? Can a minimum of 50 % of food be 'home-grown'?)
- Neo-Water (circular water management)
- Neo-Building Materials (local resources)
- Neo-Circularity (design off waste and resource circularity)
- Neo-Productivity (employment opportunities and urban functions)
- Neo-Inclusion (demographic diversity, equity, safety, social and economic inclusion)
- Neo-Socio-Cultural regenerations (tradition, community cohesion, sense of belonging)
TOP 10 Announcement by Dr. Erfan / UN-Habitat
PHASE 1 (July–October 2021)
At the end of Phase 1, the Top 10 entries will be shortlisted as Gold Medal Mentions. Submission deadline: 17 Oct 2021 @ 11.59pm (GMT+4 , Dubai time)
The Top 10 will be announced at Expo 2020 Dubai on 31 October, UN Habitat World Cities Day. All entries will be digitally exhibited at the Expo 2020 Australia Pavilion during Urban and Rural Development Week in November 2021.
PHASE 2 (November-December 2021)
In Phase 2, the Top 10 entries are invited to the Symposium 02-03 Nov 2021 during Expo Urban and Rural Development Week. The Final Brief and individual (online) Mentoring sessions will offered on Monday 08 Nov 2021.
They will then compete with their refined design proposals for the three finalist prizes.
Submission Phase 2: 05 Dec 2021
Final Award Winning Ceremony 19 Dec 2021 (Hybrid and @ Australia Pavilion)
1 video (max 3 minutes), including team presentation, team philosophy, vision, context, design concept, and design proposition.
3 × A2 posters (landscape, PDF 300 dpi compression) containing:
- NeOasis design (conceptual diagrams, plans, axonometric/perspective views, sections);
- NeOasis metabolism (diagrams, infographics, urban circularity of resources, flows); and
- NeOasis community profile (creative portrait of the inhabitants and their interactions within the design propositions productivity, economy, affordability).
1st prize: AUD 3.000
2nd prize: AUD 2.000
3rd prize: AUD 1.000
Top 10 Finalists: Exhibition at the Australia Pavilion Expo 2020 Dubai and mentoring sessions during Expo 2020 Urban and Rural Development Week (31 October–6 November 2021).
All entries will be digitally showcased at the Australia Pavillon of the Dubai Expo 2020.
All awarded proposals will be published through international platforms, including architectural magazines and websites, and exhibited at the World Expo.
Queensland Government Architect (AUS) – Leah Lang (Chair of Awards)
UN-Habitat – Dr Erfan Ali
Effat University (KSA) – Prof Asmaa Ibrahim
Zayed University (UAE) – Prof Adina Hempel and Prof Mehdi Sabet
DUBAI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (UAE) – Ahmad Bukhash
The University of Queensland (AUS) – Dr Paola Leardini
Griffith University (AUS) – Prof Joerg Baumeister
Bond University (AUS) – Prof Daniela Ottmann
Holy Makkah Municipality (KSA)
National School of Architecture of Marrakech (MOR) – Mr. Abdelghani Tayyibi
Contreras Earl Architecture (CEA) (AUS) – Monica Earl
- It is recommended that a diversity of disciplines be represented in the team. At least one team member should be a student, practitioner or recent graduate of architecture, but there here is no restriction concerning other design disciplines.
- Both individual and team participation is allowed, with a minimum of 50 % female members.
- Maximum number of participants in a team is five, composed of students or young practitioners (18–33 years).
- •This is a worldwide challenge, open to participants located across the globe.
- A student is defined as a person who is currently enrolled in a graduate/undergraduate program at a university anywhere in the world. Proof of identity and age and a statement by the enrolling institution/proof of graduation within XXXX years is required upon registration.
1/ Project Overall Description | -Developed Project overview. - Project objectives. | 20 %
2/ Situational Analysis and Conceptual Design (3 × A2 posters (landscape, PDF 300dpi compression) containing) | − The NeOasis design (conceptual diagrams, plans, sections, axonometric/perspective views). | 20 %
3/ The NeOasis metabolism (diagrams, infographics, circularity of resources, flows). | 20 %
4/ The NeOasis community profile and socio-economic productivity (creative portrait of the inhabitants and their interactions within the design propositions). | 20 %
5/ Video presentation | Video (max. 3 minutes), including team presentation, team philosophy, vision, context, design concept, and design proposition. | 20 %.
Criteria: Inclusion of all required deliverables. Innovation and creativity. Clarity of messages, evidence-based information. Ability to reflect logical/scientific thinking and consequent analysis. Use of illustrative/interpretative diagrams. Including references within text when applicable.
Ingenious Women’s Initiatives for Sustainable Urban Development is a series of activities hosted by the Australian Pavilion in conjunction with UN-Habitat and the Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai (Oct 2021–Mar 2022).
It aims to initiate a global platform for women involved in sustainable design of the built environment, including architecture, engineering, construction, urban design and planning, and allied professions.
Why the Oasis?
Unlike what is commonly thought, an Oasis is a totally artificial environment. Such historical and legendary landscape is, in fact, entirely man-made, the result of a series of social, environmental, agricultural, architectural elements, all equally necessary and absolutely inseparable. It is in fact only thanks to the Saharan and Arabian communities, who have settled since prehistoric times in arid areas and handed down rules for the self-reproduction of natural systems, sharing scarce resources and cultivating the palm grove, that the Oasis was born.
Centuries-old crossroads of merchants, exchanges and encounters between different cultures and religions, the Oasis has inhabited from time immemorial the collective imagination of different peoples, a symbolic place of the unexpected and saving beauty, celebrated by ancient and universally known works of literature. A shelter and, at the same time, a gateway to the desert, to the vast biblical landscape of stone and sand, the Oasis is the stronghold of human civilization in a land of silence, where hermits, saints and pilgrims, take to wander, seeking the Infinite and the Absolute.
The architectural heritage enclosing the history of entire peoples' adaptation to climate – consistent with the choice of natural building materials – these are the villages of the Oasis. Most of the time, they appear as fortified complexes of remarkable plastic unity, radiating the mineral colours of the ground they come from. The extraordinary example of fusion between man's work and nature. A dense urban fabric, designed to reduce sunlight-exposed surfaces to a minimum; building units, some six storeys high, leaning against one another, mainly opened northward. Extremely narrow and winding alleys, taking advantage of the shadow projected by the tall facades and trapping the cool night air. Attics extending like bridges over the urban pathways generating draughts of air, the so-called Bernoulli effect, high and low pressure areas which offer unexpected refreshment. The same function is performed by covered areas that replace squares, as places for rest and discussion.
The mosque, the humble dwellings and the richer homes, it is all one big, unique village-building, scattered with terraces in the place of roofs. The house in the Oasis, completely inward facing, opens up to the sky through its patio or the inner courtyard. This is the internal core around which domestic life is organised, using spaces according to a season-driven nomadism. Architecture and construction, in keeping with tradition, employ materials such as raw earth or stone. Proportions are dictated by the tools available, or by nature. It is the case of roofing slabs, made with date palm trunks which limit the size of the rooms, due to their poor structural resistance. In the Oasis the village is the architectural set that stems from the wisdom of custom and it results in a fairy-tale beauty, since it is unmovable. Even though extremely functional in every respect, raw earth buildings become very fragile if exposed to heavy rain, needing constant maintenance.
Why the oasis? (2021)
Retrieved from www.laboasis.org/home/why-the-oasis/
Oasis as an Ecosystem
Before the discovery of oil on the Arabian Peninsula, we find traditional oasis structures (...) that have been built and maintained without significant change over many centuries. Traditional oasis settlements are based around or at sources of water due to the lack of water in the prevailing climatic conditions. Via human-made irrigation channels, green belts of agriculture would surround the built-up area of the village, which comprises only around one-fifth of the farmed land. Agriculture is made possible through terraces and a mixture of tall date palms that have a variety of crops and fruit at their base. The fields are fertilised via human and animal waste. The palm tree provides resources for building, weaving and power generation.
The structure of the settlement is based on the topography of the place and the water flow. As a result, irregular patterns of densely clustered buildings shape narrow alleyways to allow the prevailing winds to enter the urban fabric. East-west orientation of the building mass prevents the direct impact of the sun on the walls and alleyways. The buildings are constructed from locally available materials: limestone as plinths, finished off with sun-dried adobe (loam) bricks. Slabs and roofs are constructed of quartered palm tree trunks and topped up with palm-frond woven mats filled in again with clay earth (loam). Openings are made with either stone or palm-tree trunk lintels and fitted with wooden shutters for doors and windows. The walls of the buildings provide insulation through an 80–100cm thick thermal mass of local stone and earth construction material.
Common courtyard spaces are shaded by the vertical walls of the courtyard. The main throughways opening onto the farmland belt face into the main winds. Other narrow alleyways are maze-like and wind through the oasis cluster. The buildings occupy elevated terraces and benefit from the cooling effect as winds pass through the oasis. Traditional oasis systems such as this have adapted to the environment and its available resources in order to remain self-sustaining over centuries. Water, the prevailing winds, solar, and biotic and abiotic materials have been used to support survival in the harsh and resource-scarce environment of the desert.
Everything has been carefully integrated into passive design strategies to create liveable habitats. All elements of the settlement have been perfectly connected into interdependent cycles to maximise synergies. Integration into ecology and interconnection of its elements are both important for the settlement to make the most of scarce resources. This is how waste can be avoided and healthy cities can be made.
Baumeister, J., & Ottmann, D. (2016). URBAN:ORGAN – Models for Gulf Cities as Integrated Ecological Systems. In Gulf Cities as Interfaces. Gulf Research Center.