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Sat 5 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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A city that rotates? Only in Dubai

The groundbreaking US $1.5 billion Rotating City will be up and running by 2011. Tim Wood gauges reaction to what will be yet another world first for the UAE.

A little over two years ago, Faisal Ali Moosa had what he himself described as a “crazy idea”. He wanted to create something that was “absolutely unique”, “that people would go ‘wow’ for”, and “that would become talk of the region”.

The owner of High Rise Real Estate travelled to Brazil, Canada and Germany — countries where his idea already existed in one shape or another — and his concept to create a city where every building would rotate was born.

“I looked into rotating buildings, floating villas that would rotate and fly to a height of 6m, water themed parks, a shopping mall that would have rotating shops, cinemas that would rotate, restaurants and coffee bars,” he recalls.

Two years on and the idea looks like becoming a reality after it was announced last week that a rotating city would be up and running, somewhere in the UAE, within five years.However, it is a move that Ali Moosa accepts is bound to attract sceptics.

“With any unique, large, crazy development, there will be critics,” he admits. “But with this project there are very few critics of the technological aspects. Many also thought that we may have problems with investors and residents, people who would pay and live in such places — but the fact that The Rotating Towers in Jumeirah Village South sold out in 24 hours, with the rotating parts selling first, shows there is a need [for this project].”

But it appears that it is not just the moneymen and house hunters who are wanting a slice of the action; countries are also fighting to house the groundbreaking project.

“Although we have already secured a very large piece of land in which to place this rotating city, there have been so many proposals from various emirates within the UAE to take on our concept in their emirate, that we are having to think twice about the location.

“But as it is the first rotating city in the whole world, it really is not surprising that so many emirates are willing to come in as joint venture partners.”

Before the Rotating Tower was designed, the knowledge of Canadian-based engineer, Hamilton Project Management Group was sought, especially from general manager, Horst Meyer, who was instrumental in its overall design.

“I was glad to assist Faisal Ali Moosa in executing his ideas, as rotating buildings is our business,” Meyer says. “If a client comes to us with ideas, however strange, we have the engineers who can bring them to life.”

However, others are not so sure. “The problem with rotating buildings is that on each floor you can only have one flat. If you have two flats on one floor you have no option to rotate your flat unless your neighbour is rotating with you,” says Moh’d Kamal Hamed, managing director, m.e Engineering Consultants.

“At the moment, it is not practical to rotate a whole building with hundreds of tonnes of weight as there are no materials strong enough to carry the weight of the tower.”

Muhammad Touqan, managing director, Midmac Contracting and Real Estate, adds: “The problem [with the rotating tower idea] is deciding who wants which flat and who wants which view i.e. who wants the beach, the back street etc.”

It does work, as Brazil can testify — there are a number of buildings that are 25 storeys high and every floor rotates independently. “In Brazil, the building rotates on rollers,” says Dr Hamid Yazdani, executive consultant, High Rise Real Estate.

“On the outer perimeter of each foundation there are rollers that fit on top of each of the rollers that lie underneath and it is these that hold the structure together. The wheels actually stick on top of each other leaving the core of the building fixed, it is only the outer ring that rotates.”

With the Rotating City not due to be finished until 2011 the argument as to whether it will ever become a reality is likely to run and run.

But with Meyer on board — the man believed to be the main pioneering engineer of rotating buildings — you wouldn’t bet on Ali Moosa’s vision being accomplished exactly as he forecast.

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