Downtown Circle by ZN Era architects is intended to surround Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and take the form of a mixed-use ‘skypark’ above the clouds. Rose Dykins reports

Local emirati architectural studio ZN Era has unveiled a design for a 550-metre-high, circular skyscraper that would form a ring around Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest freestanding tower.

Comprising two interconnected rings supported by five vertical beams, Downtown Circle would measure 3km in circumference. ZN Era envisions a self-sufficient, sustainable “continuous metropolis” that would provide a solution to rapid urbanisation and population growth in Dubai.

Downtown Circle would be divided into smaller units housing residential, public, commercial and cultural spaces. The structure would have its own delivery pad for incoming and outgoing drone delivery services.

Downtown Circle by ZN Era ©_PictownThe circular structure would feature a transport system running along its outer ring, with a tram holding two pods that could help passengers travel from one node to another around the structure at a speed of 100km per hour.

Downtown Circle by ZN Era ©_PictownDowntown Circle would also have a skypark, where residents can connect with nature and explore a variety of different ecosystems, such as “canyons, dunes, swamps and waterfalls”. The skypark would be set up to harvest rainwater and solar power, and to filter out air pollutants.

Downtown Circle by ZN Era ©_PictownOriginally an entry in a design competition launched by the Dubai Future Foundation, Downtown Circle was designed by Najmus Chowdhry and Nils Remess of the ZN Era, an architectural group that specialises in experimental designs that address socio-economic and environmental issues.

Speaking to Khajeel Times, Chowdhry said: “Like what we see with the Line in Neom, Saudi Arabia, the Downtown Circle is meant to trigger emotions among those who see the designs. We want it to start a conversation about modern architectural possibilities.”

Downtown Circle by ZN Era ©_Pictown“We submitted the design two years ago and were told that our design has been shortlisted. However, since it’s been a while since we heard back from them, we decided to release the illustrations. We were trying to push boundaries by using architecture as a medium. When Covid-19 hit, we thought how were cut off from mobility and the need for more sustainable structure.”

ZN Era has conceived other groundbreaking ideas to improve urban life. For example, its Smog Tower project – a network of giant towers that absorb pollution and transform it into breathable air – was shortlisted for the Experimental Future Project of the year award at the 2018  World Architecture Festival. Chowdry and Remess have also come up with a design for the world’s first Vertical Mosque.