By Shane McGinley
The tower in Abu Dhabi was to be the first of seven built around the world
As part of our ongoing summer series, we will be looking back at some of the most colourful and extraordinary proposals pitched in the UAE and the wider Gulf and investigating what happened to them.
In the last few weeks, we have looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s ideas for a series of environmentally-friendly projects, a Swedish firm’s designs for a moving statue, a Chinese team’s ambitions for a technologically advanced neighbourhood in the shape of a globe and a Hong Kong designer’s vision of a heart-shaped water park containing the world’s highest water slide.
We also looked at a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia’s dream of a city with towers shaped like a chessboard, plans for an underwater TV studio and a crystal ball-shaped football museum in time for the 2022 World Cup, a tower in Abu Dhabi with a futuristic exterior that changes with the surrounding environment and a theme park in Dubai dedicated to the classic Herbie movie franchise.
Today, we are looking at the Michael Schumacher Snowflake Tower in Abu Dhabi.
This $544 million tower was launched at Cityscape Dubai 2008 in partnership with the legendary German Formula One racing driver Michael Schumacher. The tower was originally called Snowflake Tower as, according to the design plans, it was “inspired by the geometrical order of a snowflake”.
The design documents also state that the plans were inspired by “the aerodynamics of a Formula One racing car, the tower encapsulates speed, fluid dynamics, future technology and natural patterns of organisation”.
At the Cityscape launch eleven years ago, it was stated that this would be the first in a series of seven towers to be built around the world, with the first one developed in Abu Dhabi and branded The Michael Schumacher World Champion Tower.
“The unique collaboration with Michael Schumacher gave us new insights. Technology, precision, speed, elegance, paired with human intuition and extraordinary performance were a great source of inspiration for the design. Similar to the Formula One operation, construction is a team sport with a lot of highly skilled experts. In this sense the architects take the driver seat in the process, taking the project to the physical limits of possibility,” architect Alexander Rieck was quoted as saying in a press release at the time.
The 230 metre tall tower was to be spread out over a wide base, anchoring the tower into a surrounding water basin, similar to the surrounding mangroves.
The lower levels of the tower, traditionally the most difficult and least attractive area, were also developed as a series of wharf apartments, terraced similar to that of cruise ship decks.
The top Sky Villas were designed to give 270 degree views opposite the new cultural district on Saadiyat Island and Abu Dhabi’s fast-growing skyline.
The tower design comprised executive residential suites, luxury amenities and a marina.
According to the 2008 press release, the tower’s ground breaking ceremony was due to take place at the beginning of 2009, with the entire project completed by June 2011.
However, the onset of the global financial crisis at the end of 2008-start of 2009 impacted a lot of projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
A spokesperson from LAVA, the architect firm involved in the project, confirmed that this tower was one of those which stalled as a result of the downturn.
Schumacher has had mixed fortunes when it comes to real estate in the United Arab Emirates. It has long been rumoured that he was gifted one of the islands on The World, the archipelago of manmade islands off the coast of Dubai. However, these rumours haven’t been officially substantiated.
Another tower was also branded in his name, this time in Dubai. Launched in Dubai in early 2008, the $272 million Michael Schumacher Business Avenue was a 29-storey business tower set to be built in Dubai's Business Bay.
It had been launched alongside the same company that launched The Niki Lauda Twin Tower and the Boris Becker Business Tower.
However, the company behind the projects filed for bankruptcy on four of its seven property funds in September 2010 and none of the celebrity-backed towers appear to have been completed.
Tennis star Becker distanced himself from the project in an interview with Arabian Business. “Well, it’s been a couple of years ago since I was involved in that, so I don’t have the latest news as to what is happening with the project,” he said on the sidelines of the Laureus Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi in 2011.
“I have to think about it, because I believe the deal was three or four years old and I’m not sure whether I’m still involved… The name is still on it, but whether I’m personally involved? I don’t think so,” he added.
Racing legend Lauda, who died earlier this year, also distanced himself from the tower bearing his name when he was interviewed in 2010.
“All I did was give my name to a builder in Dubai but unfortunately they are in a mess,” he said on the sidelines of the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“I don’t know exactly what the details are because I have nothing to do with bringing the tower up, this was the builder who did it.”
Coming up tomorrow: The Smurf Village
Check out the other projects in the series:
The Herbie Theme Park (below)
Are there any projects from the past you would like Arabian Business to investigate? Contact us with your suggestions at email@example.com
For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.