Futuristic architecture responds to the desert sand dunes

In the southern Gobi Desert of Mongolia, a building created by Margot Krasojevic Architects for SIAC explores dormant monolithic architecture in the dunes. The Sand Drift Proving Ground responds to the local climate by merging with its environment. The design resembles materials blown into place by the desert wind. It will rise out of the landscape when in use and buried under snow and sand when dormant.

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A sandy area with a white structure from it

This buried desert building activates with movement. The building is covered or exposed by quicksand where it lies low in the sedimentary bedrock. This is a year-round proving ground for off-road vehicle testing, including viewing tunnels, flooded zones and various surface and soil gradients to test the limits of vehicles.

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A swooshy structure shot from multiple angles

In addition, the test track design, sponsored by SIAC cars, has three zones: torsional obstacles, twist track and surface response. There are also slopes for endurance, viewing and facilities and artificial hydrofoils flooded and frozen zones. The building is an artificial landscape in itself. By simulating environments using solar energy and piezoelectric technology, it mimics different driving conditions. Road surfaces test how vehicles perform on snow, ice and on wet and dry asphalt.

A white road leading to a structure in the middle of sand

The primary structure of the building is an extruded barrel vault partially buried in the desert bedrock. It keeps the underground environment cooler than the air above. The climate of the place changes daily as the Mongolian desert varies from -30 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius. The building acts as a barometer to adapt and create the right test environments for the facility. The facility uses motion sensors to respond to vehicle movement. Each vehicle here is equipped with sensors to activate different areas of the track and proving grounds, and each car brings the building to life.

A black car is driving on a white path surrounded by a mountain landscape

Meanwhile, the hydroplane area uses a nearby reservoir and cooling system for polished ice surfaces. Solar generators cool the ice with a maximum capacity of 50 kilowatts. Viewing galleries line the tunnels and run under the tracks, allowing cars to be viewed in 3D. Cameras track the vehicle’s movements.

A white landscape with a structure that almost looks hidden in the landscape

Additionally, the looped road/surface can hydraulically expand to slide into the landscape, increasing the terrain to two kilometers. Surfaces include potholes, deep sand pits, gravel, rumble strips, sine waves, rolling asphalt and cobbled stretches of road. These track sections are hydraulically supported to change the road gradient depending on test needs.

Diagrammatic representations of the structure and its multiple layers

The designer of this building, Margot Krasojevic, won the 2018 LEAF Award for Best Future Building – Under Construction and Drawing Board for her Self-Excavating Hurricane House in Louisiana. She was nominated for the Energy Globe awards 2020. Krasojevic won GOLD WAN awards in 2020 and 2021, Belgrade Design Week, Research in Recyclable Materials with University of Exhibition at Smithsonian, Alaska 2021.

+ Margot Krasojevic Architects

Images via Margot Krasojevic

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