My wife and I had the fortunate opportunity this January to spend a week in the United Arab Emirates so I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite buildings. Not an easy task since Abu Dhabi and Dubai provided quite the sensory overload for an architect; therefore picking only six was quite the challenge! Here goes…
1. Burj Khalifa – Dubai
Rising out of the desert standing just over 2,700 ft tall is the record breaking (for now) skyscraper anchoring Dubai’s main business district. It was hard to find a spot in this part of the city that did not offer some glimpse of the spiraling tower which conversely also made it difficult for my wife and I to capture a photo of us together with the entire building in the same frame! The ride to the observation deck felt surreal as it propelled us up to the 124th floor in about 60 seconds. After the amazing views from atop, we dined at a restaurant near the base which offered up an incredible view of the skyscraper draped head to toe with an animated LED light show, only possible in this city!
2. Ferrari World – Abu Dhabi
Despite not being able to convince my wife to go on the fastest roller coaster in the world (150mph), walking around a building designed to evoke speed was such a thrill in of itself! Built as a museum and amusement park, Ferrari World attaches to the Yas Island Mall and is situated just outside the Formula One race track home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It’s not hard to draw conclusions about the building’s design inspiration as it conjures the same graceful and flowing style of the high-performance sports car.
3. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – Abu Dhabi
Traveling to the middle east was not complete until stepping out of this modern, somewhat fantastical world and into a mosque. Although just under 10 years old, the design and detailing of the Grand Mosque exhibits the traditional essence and beauty of Islamic architecture while also showcasing its overwhelming grandeur within the capital city of the Emirates. Despite the feeling of being in a very sacred place, tourists did not seem to hold back with their use of the selfie stick!
4. Al Bahr Towers – Abu Dhabi
It was hard to soak up all of the amazing architecture in a short amount of time and often, a building would pop up in my periphery that I wish I’d been able to see more of. These twin towers utilize an innovative system of day-lighting control inspired by the “Mashrabiya” screens found in traditional Arabic architecture put in place centuries ago. The automatically opening and closing of the curtain wall helps to reduce solar heat gain inside the building by 50 percent and allowed the project to gain one of the first LEED ratings in the Emirates.
5. Dubai Marina – Dubai
On the opposite side of town from the Burj Khalifa sits a development of residential skyscrapers flanked by man-made canals. We found a relaxing way to soak up the winter sun and experience the fabulous architecture of the Marina City by taking a ride on a water taxi. One of the more interesting buildings that caught my eye was the Cayan Tower which twists a full 90 degrees from top to bottom.
6. Etihad Towers – Abu Dhabi
Comprised of 5 towers, the sleekness of these buildings provide for an iconic backdrop to the capital city. Directly across the Sheikh Zayed road is the Emirates Palace which is where we were able to get the best views of these composition of buildings. Not surprising that cars like the one I’m posing next to are a dime a dozen in this city!