You could be forgiven for thinking that an alien race had made its home in Macau, China, but this extraordinary structure is actually the latest major building by Zaha Hadid Architects. Serving as a flagship hotel for the City of Dreams resort, its perforated form is wrapped in an exoskeleton that provides structural support.

Morpheus Hotel is built atop the abandoned foundations of a rectangular condo that was never completed, so its basic shape was already decided. That said, ZHA definitely managed to put its own stamp on the project.

The building rises to a height of 160 m (524 ft) and, structurally, takes the form of two towers connected at multiple points. It's described by the firm as the "world's first free-form high-rise exoskeleton" (that is, with its structural support visible on the outside), though is also supported by internal concrete cores that provide additional stability, allowing it to stand up to typhoons and seismic activity – not to mention meet the region's strict planning codes.

The exoskeleton itself is an impressive feat of engineering and comprises 2,500 steelwork connections and 1,200 junctions, all clad in aluminum. As well as lending it such a unique appearance, the exoskeleton also allows for flexible interior spaces uninterrupted by columns.

As out-of-this-world as Morpheus Hotel looks, inspiration for the project comes from closer to home – namely, the fluid forms of China's jade carving traditions.

Its 42 m (137 ft)-tall atrium is filled with complex geometric shapes and plays with light and open space. A dozen glass elevators move people around and multiple bridges provide choice locations for the hotel's restaurants, bars and guest lounges. The 147,860 sq m (1,591,550 sq ft) building includes 770 guest rooms, suites and sky villas, and is topped by a rooftop pool.

ZHA gave some thought to energy-efficiency and the environment, too. The building's atrium is designed to reduce solar heat gain and features high-performance glazing. Air-conditioning is used only in essential areas (bridges, bars, and the like) and local materials were also used in construction. An efficient water system pre-heats water for domestic use and a building management system minimizes energy consumption.

Source: ZHA

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