REVEALED: The UAE's most iconic projects
To honour the United Arab Emirates’ 42nd National Day celebrations, Construction Week is marking the occasion by highlighting some of the major projects that have shaped and continue to shape the history of the nation.
To honour the United Arab Emirates’ 42nd National Day celebrations, Construction Week is marking the occasion by highlighting some of the major projects that have shaped and continue to shape the history of the nation. <
\nMany of these, such as the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Emirates Towers are not only iconic buildings within the country, but have helped to shape its image to the outside world. Moreover, the towers that have sprung up across skylines in Dubai and Abu Dhabi also give an indication as to the pace of the country’s development.
\nA recently-published report by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat found that in 1995 there were only two buildings in the Middle East with a height above 150m. By 2015, that figure will have reached 289, and two-thirds (192) of these will be in the UAE.
\nIt’s not all about tall buildings, though. Engineering feats such as the world-renowned Palm Jumeirah and the Dubai Metro – the system with the longest driverless train systems in the world – have helped to catapult the reputation of the UAE as a major player on the world stage.
\nThe following pages, however, are not only limited to modern-day projects but also highlight some of those projects that were conceived at the early stages of the UAE’s development, but which have played a major part in its growth, such as Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai International Airport and the Dubai Pearl.
Burj Khalifa - Dubai
\nNot only the tallest building on earth, but the tallest structure ever produced, the Burj Khalifa is a staggering feat of engineering that simply dwarfs anything else ever constructed.
\nEven within Dubai’s towering skyline, with its forest of skyscrapers lining two distinct sections of Sheikh Zayed Road, the 828m tall Burj Khalifa stands out – particularly at night, when it provides a backdrop to the half-hourly fountain displays at its base.
\nThe Burj actually bagged several world-topping records when it was officially opened in January 2010, including: tallest building in the world, tallest free-standing structure in the world, highest number of storeys in the world, highest outdoor observation deck, elevator with the longest travel distance in the world, tallest service elevator in the world, world’s highest swimming pool (76th floor) and the world’s highest occupied floor.
\nHowever the building’s place in the record books is under threat from the 1km-high Kingdom Tower project in Jeddah and China’s Sky City development, although there is scepticism about whether the latter will actually take place.
\nArchitect: Adrian Smith at Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM)
\nDeveloper: Emaar Properties
\nMain contractor: Samsung Engineering, Besix and Arabtec
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
\nAbu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest in the UAE and sits between the between the Mussafah and Maqta bridges on the entrance to the city. The mosque, which was completed in 2007, It is clad in the white marble covering an area of more than 22,000m² and includes four 107m tall minarets and 57 domes. Elaborate extensive floral designs decked with precious stones adorn the several walls, pillars and the 7,000m2 courtyard of the mosque.
\nThe mosque’s grand carpet from Iran, which measures 5,627m2 and weighs 47 tonnes, is the largest carpet in the world. In addition, the world’s biggest Swarovski crystal bejeweled gold-plated chandelier from Germany measuring 10m in diameter and 15m tall is housed in the main prayer hall.
\nTheSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque also houses the mausoleum of the late President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
\nNo. Of contractors: 56
\nEst. cost: $545m
Burj Al Arab - Dubai
\nThe Burj Khalifa may have blitzed every construction record in the book, but the recognisable shape of the Burj Al Arab is still one of Dubai’s most internationally-renowned buildings.
\nAtkins architect Tom Wright says on his website that his brief was to “create an icon for Dubai, a building that would become synonymous with the place, as Sydney has its opera house and Paris the Eiffel Tower”.
\nPart of the Jumeirah Beach Resort project, the Burj Al Arab stands 321m high and is built on a man-made landscape island of the Jumeirah coastline. It has full-height atriums that are enclosed by Teflon woven glass fibre curved walls.
\nConstruction began in 1994 through a partnership of Murray & Roberts, Fletcher and Al Habtoor, with the unusual form presenting a number of challenges for contractors. The biggest was sorting through the logistics of producing the 9,000 tons of structural steel components in South Africa, then shipping them to Dubai for assembly. The Burj Al Arab was officially opened in November 1999, one month ahead of schedule and in time for the turn of the new milliennium.
\nAtkins commercial director Simon Crispe said: “At the time we came in, the Dubai World Trade Centre had been the tallest building in the Middle East. Our brief was to create a project for Dubai that would make it recognisable as a destination. It needed to be a transition between the past and the future.”
\nCompleted: November 1999
\nDesign: Tom Wright, Atkins
\nMain contractor: Murray & Roberts, Al Habtoor, Fletcher
\nAchievement: World’s first seven-star hotel
Sheikh Zayed Bridge - Abu Dhabi
\nExtending 842 metres, and defying all standard engineering principles, Sheikh Zayed Bridge was intended to be unique, complex and testing for those involved in its building. According to the contractors, it certainly achieved its aims.
\nStarted in 2003, Sheikh Zayed Bridge was the third crossing over the waterway into the island of Abu Dhabi.
\nMain contractor: Archirodon Construction, Six Construct., FIP Industriale S.p.A.
Port Rashid - Dubai
\nDubai’s first mega-port opened in 1972 and has been instrumental in helping to develop the emirate as a major trading hub. At the time of the opening, the port had two gantry cranes and processed just 100,000 TEUs annually.
\nThe port handles general cargo, Ro-Ro and passenger vessels, and operates in conjunction with the Port of Jebel Ali. It has no approach channel and entry is made between the breakwaters from the north. The inner basin turning radius is 160 metres and the maximum draft is 11.5 metres.
Cayan Tower, Dubai Marina - Dubai
\nAlthough the Cayan Tower was renamed after its launch to reflect the name of its developer, it is still known to most people either as its previous name, Infinity Tower, or its more informal, descriptive moniker – the ‘Twisting Tower’.
\nThe design philosophy for the tower is based upon the exterior form of the building as a direct expression of the structural framework. The engineers studied a series of options for the perimeter frame in order to create the unique twisting geometry of the tower.
\n“Ultimately it was determined that there were distinct advantages, from the standpoint of architectural efficiency, structural performance and ease of construction, to stacking the columns in a step-wise manner order to generate the twisting building form. At each level, where each column slopes in one direction, and is offset over the column below, in a distinctive application of architectural expressions through structural form,” said chairman Ahmed Al Hatti.
\nThe Cayan Tower twists a full 90 degrees from its base to its crown 314 meters (1,038 feet) above the ground, through a series of incremental plan rotations at each level.
\n“The dramatic architectural form of the tower presented the multi-disciplinary design team with unique challenges which are not typically encountered in the design process for more conventional building structures,” Al Hatti added. “The efficiency, constructability, and overall viability of the tower depended upon the ability of the architects and engineers to develop and implement simple, straightforward building systems that work with the geometrically complex building form.”
\nArchitectural consultant: Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM)
\nLocal consultant: Khatib & Alami
\nMain Contractor: Arabtec
\nCompleted: June, 2013
\nCost: $326m (AED1.2bn)
Al Maktoum International Airport - Dubai
\nAl Maktoum International Airport – part of the massive $32bn Dubai World Central project – opened its new passenger terminal in October to add to cargo services that began running in 2010.
\n Marking the completion of phase one, the new facility is serviced by one A380 capable runway, 64 remote aircraft stands and currently has capacity for up to 7m passengers per year. However, it is seen as a key part of Dubai’s expansion plans and it was recently reported that the airport could eventually become home to one of Dubai’s two big airlines – flasgship carrier Emirates or budget specialist flydubai. It will be the centrepiece of the world’s first purpose-built ‘Aerotropolis’, or airport city, and could eventually handle up to 160m passengers when all phases are complete (currently scheduled for 2027).
\nThe airport will also have the capacity to handle 12 million tonnes of annual cargo. The infrastructure required to accommodate four additional CAT III-certified runways capable of handling four superjumbo aircraft landings simultaneously, 24 hours a day, is already in place.
\nPhase two of the airport, which includes the construction of an additional two automated and one non-automated cargo terminals, is currently under way. This is expected to increase the total cargo capacity at Al Maktoum International Airport to 1.4m tonnes per annum.
\nMain Contractor: Kharafi National (CUC Contractor)
\nMain Contractor: Aeradio (Meteorological Systems)
\nMain Contractor: Northropp Grumman (Radar Operations)
\nMain Contractor: Thermo (Fuel Farm)
\nMain Contractor: Amana Steel (Fuel Farm)
\nMain Contractor: Al Naboodah Contracting Co. (First Runway)
Dubai International Airport - Dubai
\nEstablished in 1959, Dubai International was the fastest-growing airport for international passengers in 2009 and continues to be one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of international passenger and cargo traffic. Dubai International is connected to over 220 destinations across six continents through some 130 scheduled airlines.
\nIt is comprised of three terminals, including the Emirates Terminal 3 which opened in October 2008. Terminal 3 boosted Dubai International’s operational capacity to 60m passengers per year, a figure that increased to 75m on completion of the world’s first A380-dedicated airside facility connected to it in January 2013 at a cost of $3.2bn.
Sheikh Zayed Road - Dubai
\nThe 55km section of the UAE’s main artery, the E11 that starts from the World Trade Centre and ends on the border of Abu Dhabi is better known as the Sheikh Zayed Road. Formerly known as Defence Road, the Sheikh Zayed Road or SZR, was expanded in the 1990s paving the way for Dubai to expand to the south.
\nToday the artery plays a vital role in stringing together Dubai’s blockbuster developments such as the Burj Khalifa, the Emirates Towers and the Dubai Marina with its commercial and industrial centres of the DIFC, Al Quoz and Jebel Ali Port and Free Zone.
Dubai World Trade Centre - Dubai
\nThe Dubai World Trade Centre has played a pivotal role in the growth of international trade for the Middle East, ever since its inauguration in 1979. Then, it was through the landmark 39-storey Sheikh Rashid Tower. Today it is the region’s largest purpose-built complex for events and exhibitions.
Dubai Mall - Dubai
\nThe Dubai Mall is part of the Downtown Burj Dubai development, which is also being built by Emaar Properties. It took just over four years to build and is the biggest shopping mall in the world by total area.
\nConstruction started in 2004, and the mall opened its doors to the world on 4 November 2008.
\nThe Dubai Mall is a gateway for those wanting to visit the world’s tallest free-standing structure, Burj Khalifa, standing at 828m. At the Top, the world’s highest observation deck on the 124th floor, is accessible from the Lower Ground of The Dubai Mall, and offers guests 360° panoramic views of Dubai’s skyline.
\nThe mall currently has an area of 5.4m ft2 (502,000m2), but phase one of expansion works to add a further 1m ft2 (93,000m2) are currently underway. In addition, an 820m-long linked bridge from the metro station to the mall opened on Dec 26, 2012.
\nDeveloper: Emaar Properties
\nArchitect: DP Architects
\nMain Contractor: JV of Dutco Balfour Beatty Al Ghandi & Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC)
Dubai pearl - Dubai
\nDubai Pearl was Arabtec’s first high–rise building project in 1976. It is composed of 17 floors and is a commercial building located in Deira. “At that time, it was the tallest building in the UAE with an innovative curtain wall system of aluminum and baked enamel panels,” says Sami Asad Arabtec Construction Group CEO. The project ran from 1967 to 1978 and cost $9.5m (AED35m).
\nClient: Mango & Partners
\nConsultant: Khatib and Alami
\nMain Contractor: Arabtec Construction LLC
Abu Dhabi International Airport - Abu Dhabi
\nIn 1969, Abu Dhabi International Airport was opened in its first form at the heart of Abu Dhabi Island. This simple facility was transformed into today’s Al Bateen Executive Airport.
\nLater in 1982, a decade after the unification of the seven Emirates to form the United Arab Emirates under the patronage and guidance of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi International Airport was inaugurated at its current location 50km outside of the capital city. Originally designed to handle 5m passengers per year. Today’s Abu Dhabi International Airport has raised its annual capacity to 12.5m passengers.
\nLooking forward, plans are in place to reach 40m passengers by 2017, with the addition of the iconic new Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC) – a $3bn complex whose construction is being carried out by a joint venture between Arabtec, CCC and TAV Construction. The airport is a key part of the government’s “Abu Dhabi 2030” Vision.
\nOwner: Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC)
Dubai Metro - Dubai
\nOpened on September 9, 2009 (09/09/09), Dubai’s metro service provided a much needed link between the city’s busy international airport, and the residential areas of Jumeirah in Dubai’s south western extremes. Two years later, a second line added a further 18 stations and 23km to the emirate’s existing rail network with a line that stretched from the Dubai Creek Etisalat station, at Al Qusais near Emirates Road, via Diera. The RTA says expansion works for Dubai’s Metro system could begin next year to extend the Red Line from Rashadiya to Mirdif and the Green Line from Al Jaddaf to Academic City; and three new lines – Blue, Gold and Purple – are set to run by 2030.
\nThe main contractor was a consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Corporation, Obayashi Corporation, Kajima Corporation and Turkish firm Yapı Merkezi.
\nOwner: RTA (Roads and Traffic Authority)
Palm Jumeirah - Dubai
\nPalm Jumeirah is the world’s largest man-made island and is comprised of a two kilometre long trunk, a crown made up of 17 fronds and a surrounding crescent. Following a number of years of feasibility studies, the Palm Jumeirah was launched in 2001, with reclamation starting in the same year. From the end of 2006, the island’s first residences – comprising 4,000 luxury villas and apartments were handed over during a phased period.
\nContractor: Van Oord
Mall of the Emirates - Dubai
\nSoon after opening in 2005, the ambitious Mall of the Emirates was walking off with a series of awards for its design and – at the time – unique mixture of shops, eateries and a ski-dome. While it has been usurped by the Dubai Mall for the title of largest shopping mall in the GCC, Mall of the Emirates remains one of the city of Dubai’s most spectacular features. Built into the Al Barsha district of Dubai, the Mall of Emirates, developed by Majid Al Futtaim Properties and designed by the American architectural firm, F+A Architects, was also a key milestone in the rapid expansion of the southern half of Dubai in the late 2000s.
\nIn September, Majid Al Futtain announced it was spending about AED1bn ($272.3m) expanding the mall. It was last expanded in 2010 to include more fashion outlets.
\nDeveloper: Majid Al Futtaim Properties
\nArchitects: F+A Architects
Jumeirah Beach Hotel - Dubai
\nThe hotel, which opened in 1997, is operated by the Dubai-based hotelier Jumeirah Group. The beachfront area where the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel are located was previously called Chicago Beach. The hotel is located on an island of reclaimed land offshore of the beach of the former Chicago Beach Hotel. Standing 93 metres high and 275 metres long, it contains 598 ocean-view rooms and suites, and 19 traditional Arabian styled beachside villas.
\nDeveloper: Jumeirah Group
Emirates Towers - Dubai
\nIn conjunction with the opening of the Burj Al Arab four months earlier, the completion of the 309m-tall Emirates Towers on 15 April 2000 heralded a decade of unprecedented construction and growth for Dubai.
\nEmirates Towers is formed by two towers, the Emirates Office Tower and Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel. Located near to the World Trade Centre on the Sheikh Zayed Road, the towers are linked by the two-storey The Boulevard shopping mall.
\nDesigned by architect Hazel Wong, the 355m Emirates Office Tower, which hosts an antenna spire, was the 10th tallest building in the world at the time of its opening. Wong said that she goal was to create something that was simple and elegant and over a decade later her creation remains one of Dubai’s most significant and well-loved buildings.
\nArchitect: Hazel W.S. Wong Norr Group Consultants Int. Ltd.
\nMain contractor: Ssang-Yong Engineering & Construction, Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co. Ltd., Murray & Roberts
Madinat Jumeirah - Dubai
\nConstruction on the Madinat Jumeirah resort first began in 2002 with developer and architect Mirage Mille taking 36 months to complete and open the first phase of the resort: the Mina A’ Salam (The Harbour of Peace) boutique hotel.
\nThe underlying concept was to recreate life as it used to be for residents along Dubai Creek, complete with waterways, abras, wind towers and a bustling souk.
\nLocated next to the iconic Burj Al Arab, and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Madinat is a unique Dubai mixture of Disney-inspired design combined with historically and culturally-aware architecture. The Madinat Jumeirah waterways are home to a turtle sanctuary which aims to house injured turtles prior to release back into the wild. The turtle pen is located at Mina a’Salam and is directly in between Al Muna and Zheng He’s restaurants.
\nThe development is yet another of UAE’s success stories currently undergoing expansion, with plans for a $680m upgrade to add a fourth phase to the project facing the Burj al Arab announced in November last year.
\nDeveloper: Jumeirah Group
Jebel Ali Free Zone and Port - Dubai
\nA pivotal development in the establishment of the UAE as a trading destination, Jebel Ali’s Free Zone (JAFZA) and port form one of the world’s major shipping and export hubs.
\nConstruction on the port began in the late 1970’s along with Jebel Ali Village (finished in 1977), which was initially used to house construction workers of the port.
\nOfficially established in 1979, Jebel Ali Port is the largest port in the Middle East and one of the biggest man-made ports ever built.
\nThe new expansion officially opened in June 2013, gives the port an additional capacity of one million TEU to take the total capacity at the port to 15m TEU.
\nTogether with the new Container Terminal 3, which is now under construction, Jebel Ali Port will reach 19m TEU capacity by 2014 and will be able to handle 10 of the giant new generation vessels at the same time.
\nFrom humble beginnings in 1985, today, JAFZA is a dynamic base for thousands of businesses, from over 100 countries, sustaining over 135,000 jobs and attracting more than 20% of the UAE’s foreign direct investment; all the while exceeding 50% of Dubai’s total exports, with a value for trade of $69bn.
Emirates Palace - Abu Dhabi
\nThe building was designed by architect, John Elliott, who was Senior Vice President at Wimberly, Allison, Tong and Goo, an international firm specialising in Luxury Hotels. It opened in November 2005 but certain restaurants and spas did not open until 2006. The hotel was built by and is owned by the Abu Dhabi government, and is currently managed by the Kempinski Group.
\nThe costs to build the hotel were $6bn. The Emirates Palace occupies 850,000m² of floor space. Underground parking allows housing for 2,500 vehicles. There are two swimming pools and spas. The hotel has its own marina and helipad. The Emirates Palace is the second most expensive hotel ever built, only surpassed by Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
\nArchitect: John Elliott RIBA - Wimberly, Allison, Tong and Goo
Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island - Abu Dhabi
\nDesigned as an Arabian version of Monaco, the 21 corners of the Yas Marina Circuit twists through the manmade island off the Abu Dhabi coast, passing by the marina and through the Yas Vicereoy Hotel, designed and conceived of by New York-based architects Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture, Asymptote Architecture, and winding its way through sand dunes, with several long straights and tight corners.
\nThe circuit has five grandstand areas (Main Grandstand, West Grandstand, North Grandstand, South Grandstand and Marina Grandstand (aka Support), and part of its pit lane exit runs underneath the track. It also houses a team building behind the pit building, a media centre, dragster track, VIP tower and Ferrari World Theme Park. Additionally, one of the gravel traps runs underneath the West grandstand.
\nThe circuit also kick-started the larger development of Yas Island as a tourist-led hub – a reputation that is growing year-by-year as facilities such as the Ferrari World theme park and the Yas Waterworld theme park. The addition of the new 235,000m2 Yas Mall development next March will be a further catalyst towards growing the island’s popularity.
\nMain contractor: Cebarco-WCT WLL
\nDeveloper: Aldar Properties
\nArchitect: Hermann Tilke
\nConstruction cost: $1.3bn
Business Bay - Dubai
\nPart of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum’s vision for economic development in Dubai, Business Bay is a mixed-use development that will be an extension of the Dubai Creek.
\nThe project is home to numerous skyscrapers, including the world tallest hotel, the JW Marquis Marriott, which opened this year. The infrastructure of Business Bay was completed in 2008.
\nEarlier this year, it was announced that construction of the $545m Dubai Canal project, which is set to run for 3km from Business Bay to Sheikh Zayed Road, will be complete in 2017. It will run through Safa Park and across Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 2 and Jumeirah Road to the Arabian Gulf. The new $3bn Al Habtoor City project will sit alongside the canal extension.
\nDeveloper: Dubai Holding
Dubai Creek - Dubai
\nDubai’s Dubai’s Creek has long been a centre of commercial activity, but things really took off in the 1950s after the river bed was dredged to allow larger vessels to access upstream quays. Initial work involved dredging shallow areas, building of breakwaters, and developing its beach to become a quay suitable for loading and unloading of cargo.
\nThe Creek was dredged in 1961 to a depth of 2.1m, and again in the 1960s and 1970s to allow vessels weighing up to 500 tons to anchor. The work gave Dubai an edge over Sharjah, and was a major contributing factor in helped to shape the city’s economy. The creek remains a vital link for import and export trade with neighbouring nations, as well as becoming a tourist attraction in its own right.
Al Reem Island - Abu Dhabi
\nThe Al Reem Island development in Abu Dhabi will cover an area of 6.5 sq km. Bunya has been set up to act as the municipality of Al Reem Island.
\nIt will provide road and bridge infrastructure and coordinate with other local authorities for the supply of utilities including water, electricity, district cooling, telecoms services and waste management. It will also manage the master community and common-use facilities.
\nBunya is co-owned by Tamouh Investments, the master developer that owns 60% of the island; while Reem Investments Aldar and Reem Investments are responsible for developing 20% each.
\nOne of the major developments on the island is the City of Lights development, a residential and commercial community draped across 140 acres of verdant waterfront oasis containing 13 separate tower projects. Situated within 1km of the central business district, the C1 and C12 commercial development has a total floor area of over 240,000m², and is being built by contractor Brookfield Multiplex. China State Construction is also building five of the towers.
Dubai Marina - Dubai
\nBuilt along a two-mile (3 km) stretch of the Arabian Gulf shoreline, Dubai’s Marina represents the heart of ‘New Dubai’ and is one of the most prestigious areas of the city to live.
\nHalcrow was appointed as engineers for the Marina itself, Mott MacDonald took on the lead engineer role for phase one of the project, including the complete structural and building services design for six residential towers and infrastructure covering a 10-hectare site.
\nMott MacDonald completed the work for developer Emaar in 2004. Phase 2, to be dominated by high rise buildings, is now well underway, with the likes of the recently completed Princess Tower and Cayan Tower dominating the skyline.
\nDeveloper: Emaar Properties
\nEngineer: Mott MacDonald
Al Maryah Island - Abu Dhabi
\nAl Maryah Island (formerly Sowwah Island) is a 114 hectare mixed-use development, designated by the emirate’s Urban Planning Council to be the capital’s Central Business District. The island is being developed in three phases. The first phase, Sowwah Square, will provide 450,000m2 of office, hotel and retail space.
\nThe island occupies a unique location at a midpoint between Abu Dhabi’s existing downtown district, the upcoming developments at Al Reem Island and Mina Zayed, and the new cultural district on Saadiyat Island. Al Maryah Island will be a major catalyst in the city’s drive to achieve Abu Dhabi’s Urban Structure Framework Plan objective of environmental, economic and social sustainability by 2030.
Dubai Floating Bridge - Dubai
\nThe first of its kind in the emirate when completed in 2007, the Floating Bridge carries six lanes over the Dubai Creek. This pontoon bridge has a width of 2 x 22m and a total length of 365m. The challenge lies in balancing the shifts in height caused by waves and differing traffic loads.
\n An independent bridge structure was built for each of the two traffic directions. Between the two 115m long concrete pontoons, is a hydraulically driven swing gate made of steel, which provides an unobstructed shipping lane. The entire construction was completed in a record time of just 23 days. A new $299m (AED1.1bn) Dubai Bridge will replace the Floating Bridge by 2017. It will be shifted to the Sheraton crossing, linking the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road in Bur Dubai and Omar Ibn Al Khattab Road in Deira.
\nMain contractor: Waagner Biro