One of this month’s features is a celebration of local architecture, to mark the recent 40th anniversary of the UAE. Accordingly, local architects and engineers were asked to pick their favourite completed buildings from the past four decades. It was interesting to note that all six experts picked buildings in Dubai.
This got me thinking about the great buildings in other emirates, namely Abu Dhabi. Of course, the UAE’s largest emirate contains several much-loved structures such as Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Emirates Palace, Aldar HQ, Yas Hotel, Ferrari World and Sheikh Zayed Bridge.
Yet the fact remains that Dubai has been the driving architectural force in the past four decades. This is also demonstrated by the fact other famous Dubai buildings were not picked, such as the supremely elegant Emirates Towers and Atkin’s Burj Al Arab, the former icon of Dubai before Burj Khalifa stole its crown.
However, Abu Dhabi is quickly catching up with its neighbour in the landmark stakes. In addition to the icons listed, Abu Dhabi will gain many showstopping projects, a couple of which will be completed in the coming year.
The first of these to be delivered is Capital Gate, designed by RMJM, which has already become an icon for the capital. ADNEC’s flagship project is preparing for its grand opening this month, and has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as ‘World’s furthest leaning man-made tower’.
Another great building to be completed later in the year, in the wider Abu Dhabi emirate, is the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre in the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort. Not only is it a distinctive architectural form, it’s also a benchmark in sustainability; the cultural centre is the first project to achieve a Five Pearl rating in Estidama at the design phase.
Further down the line, Abu Dhabi will gain a major chunk of icons in the upcoming cultural district on Saadiyat Island. The whiz-bang designs by ‘starchitects’ Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando are certain to be landmarks that are recognised throughout the world. The recent news of the delays is a big disappointment to say the least.
It’s also worth noting that Dubai’s nearest equivalent to Capital Gate, the spiralling Infinity Tower by SOM, is due for completion in 2012. The audacious tower in Dubai Marina was delayed by 18 months due to a site flood and the topped-out form is very welcome sight.
All in all, 2012 looks to be an exciting year for architecture across the UAE and I look forward to visiting and writing about the flagship buildings at the earliest opportunity.