We celebrate some of the city's less well-known architectural triumphs
Dubai is a city on the up – and we're not just talking about the economy. While it might be a while until the next developer comes along to top the Burj Khalifa, the emirate currently has 246 skyscrapers – the fifth highest number in the world, according to Emporis, a global provider of building information. What the list doesn't tell you, however, is that the city is also home to some particularly striking architecture. These buildings might not be breaking any records, or available as miniature souvenirs from the souks, but what they are doing is showing off Dubai's flair for design. With more than 1,000 buildings in the city in total, even if you live here you can hardly be blamed for not knowing what purpose many of them hold. Some of these structures demonstrate Dubai’s appetite for the ostentatious, others show off developers’ consideration for the environment and climatic effect, the 0-14 is such an example with its ‘Swiss cheese’ facade made from cement, which actually helps to keep the structure cool – something we bet you didn’t know.
So, whether you’re taking a tour of the city, or simply stuck in traffic on the Sheikh Zayed Road (again), keep a look out for some of the structures that make our cityscape so unique.
Name: Dubai Creek Golf &Yacht Club Location: Deira Height: 45m Sailing has inspired a great deal of architecture in the UAE and wider Middle East (one of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, designed by Zaha Hadid, recently made headlines for its own take). The Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, like many of Dubai’s beautiful buildings, is inspired by the Arabian dhows, symbolising Dubai’s heritage as a fishing and pearl harbour. The clubhouse was designed by UK architect Brian Johnson, and opened in 1993. It quickly became an internationally recognised landmark – and today still features on the Dhs20 note (just check your wallet!). In 2004, the golf course and club were redesigned in a project that cost approximately US$100m, though the clubhouses's trademark exterior remains largely the same.
Name: Dubai Silicon Oasis Headquarters Location: Dubai Silicon Oasis, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd Height: 71.16m This is the main building in the emirate's IT and technology park, and was designed by Khatib & Alami, Archgroup Consultants. The central spiked- tiered peak is reminiscent of a palm tree, and an arresting sight at night when it’s lit up. The building houses the administration department site for a technology park that extends over 7.2 sq km and occupies a strategic location on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (E311, formerly Emirates Road). The HQ building only took two years to complete and is also home to offices for techie companies, although the park does have villas and shops.
Name: The Gate Location: The Gate Village, DIFC Height: 80m A huge grey cubic structure made of glass and granite welcomes you into Dubai International Financial Centre. The Gate was designed by the architecture firm Gensler, who also designed the Abu Dhabi Financial Centre on Al Maryah Island. As the name suggests, the building acts as a gateway to the area, housing offices and a conference centre. The structure itself is wrapped in a custom- designed cladding system which incorporates large panels of Italian granite. The designers were seeking to create a grand entrance, and modelled their creation on the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Sitting on an axis with Emirates Towers and the World Trade Centre, the building frames these two landmarks when viewed through the open centre.
Name: 0-14, aka the Swiss cheese building Location: Business Bay Height: 102m Wrapped in a 40cm thick ‘exoskeleton’ of white concrete punched with 1,300 holes, the 'Swiss cheese building', or to use its proper name, the 22-storey 0-14, was the first skyscraper built in Business Bay after the recession. The fascade not only looks intricate, but also fulfils a more important environmental purpose. The outer wall was designed to mimic Arabian screens known as mashrabiya, which creates a veil around the building to provide shade and keep the structure cool in the summer. It also allows floors to be supported without interior pillars, bearing most of the load on the exterior. If you were hoping to get a pad here, you'll be disappointed to discover only office units are available.
Name: Al Yaqoub Tower aka Big Ben of Dubai Location: Sheikh Zayed Road, near Emirates Towers Height: 328m Nicknamed the Big Ben of Dubai, it’s easy to see why this building draws comparisons. The Al Yaqoub Building bears a strong resemblance to the UK's Big Ben – though rumour has it the lack of an actual clock face was due to London's Westminster Council refusing to grant copyright permission. Work on Al Yaqoub began in 2006 and was completed in 2013. The architects Adnan Saffarini also built the Princess Tower and the Elite Residence in Dubai Marina. The external structure is complete, and once the interiors are completed too, the plan is for it to feature a combination of hotel and commercial use. There are 69 floors, and it is currently the 11th tallest in Dubai. A stone's throw from the Emirates Towers Metro station, it sits beside the also striking Maze building and Capricorn Tower, but thanks to its famous inspiration, still manages to stand out.
Name: The Index Location: DIFC Height: 328m This towering structure looks like something out of futuristic film Prometheus, with its long uninterrupted lines tapering to the apex. Still under construction, The Index has 80 floors of apartments and offices. It's one of the first towers in the region designed and positioned specifically to keep cool in the hot Arabian summer. It is oriented exactly along the east-west axis so that the eastern and western concrete cores shelter offices from the sun, keeping the building cool and significantly lowering the requirement for air conditioning (good news for tenants when it comes to those monthly DEWA bills). During the height of the summer, without air conditioning, the tower's internal temperatures will not rise beyond 28°C. Designed by architect Norman Foster, it also features a double height sky lobby (basically a lobby halfway up the building) separating offices and apartments. Facilities such as a swimming pool, gym, bars and restaurants will be accommodated on this recreation deck.
Name: Emirates National Bank of Dubai HQ Location: Deira Height: 125m This sail-shaped building sits on the edge of the Dubai Creek. With a shiny gold convex front, it has been listed as one of the top 12 bank buildings in the world by Emporis. Designed by Norr Group Consultants Int Ltd and Carlos Ott Architect, its shape was inspired by the curved hulls of traditional dhows, and it was completed in 1998. Rising 47 storeys, serviced by five elevators, it houses the highly exclusive invitation-only Pearl Museum. Today, it’s the tallest building in Deira, but it was the fifth-tallest building in the entire emirate when it was first built.
Name: Almas Tower aka The Diamond Tower Location: Jumeirah Lakes Towers Height: 360m Though now the fifth tallest building in Dubai, this elegant tower with a modernist glass façade previously held the top spot when it was completed in 2009, until Burj Khalifa came along and knocked it off its perch in 2010. The tallest of all the buildings on the JLT development, it was designed by Atkins Middle East, the company that designed most of the JLT complex. It is home to the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and the Dubai Diamond Exchange, and has very high security as a result (though it often hosts the rather less serious Laughter Factory comedy nights).