The smallest of the United Arab Emirates, Ajman boasts a picturesque location along 1km of the Persian Gulf. Meaning ‘small city’ in Arabic, when we were engaged with AECOM to complete the masterplan for the Ajman waterfront, this was no city as we knew it. Made up of towers, highway and suburbs, we wanted to inject some fine grain and give Ajman a proper city, with a new type of Arabic architecture. The masterplan needed to allow for a marina, tourism complex and seven residential towers and given the location, there was one major imperative with any plan we developed – the layout and architecture needed to address the harsh Middle Eastern climate. Naturally we turned to the people who know the area best and extensively studied indigenous Arabic housing types, especially the wind tower house, which relies on orientation to ensure that houses are not positioned in the sun, and wind tunnels to create passive air conditioning. We went back to environmental first principles for the designs of our seven residential towers, arranging their orientations so they were facing south, and their faces were always in shadow. The back faces were covered in a skin of fixed louvres, so that the sun never hit the surface of the building. We also compiled climatic data for the local wind patterns, which had not been researched previously. We found that they were predictable, and were able to perform CFD modelling for how this would affect through-flow of apartments, townhouses and carparks. Based on this, we modified the heights of buildings to maximise the façade exposure to cool breezes from the gulf, which also cross-ventilated apartments and naturally flushed the heat from carparks. But back to the fine grain – we wanted to introduce the concept of inner-city living, the townhouse, to Ajman, as well as active streetscapes. We created mixed-use precincts reminiscent of traditional Souks that housed retail on the ground floor, with three storey residences sitting above this. Carparks were behind and the building facades were a contemporary rendering of Arabic design featuring drooping lines and meshing that is both decorative and functional, providing shade to outdoor spaces. By putting the climate first and considering the local context, we were able to bring some modern city experiences into this ancient location.