Engineering Sidra Trees
by Susan Smith
The Education City Convention Center on the outskirts of Doha, Qatar, designed by Arata Isozaki, includes a giant structure resembling two intertwined trees to support the building's exterior canopy. Used in lieu of vertical columns, the 250-meter- (820-foot-) long, doubly curved steel tree structure forms the signature entrance to the convention center, currently under construction.
The ten-square-kilometer (3.9-square-mile) Education City development houses the headquarters of the Qatar Foundation and a number of branch campuses of some of the world's foremost universities.
The convention center depicts not just any kind of tree, but specifically the sidra tree, a multifaceted cultural symbol. This evergreen, also known as the lote tree (Ziziphus spina-christi), is mentioned in the Quran as a symbol of knowledge of the divine. The foundation, which takes the sidra as its logo, cites the tree as a shady haven for scholars, a source for traditional medicines, and a symbol of life in the desert.
Buro Happold, an international engineering firm with regional offices in Dubai and Riyadh, was commissioned to perform the total design and engineering of the sidra tree project for the entrance to the convention center, including the front-end geometry definition, structural engineering, and complete fabrication information.
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