Since 2005, Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates (TVS), the Atlanta, Georgia-based architecture firm, has been collaborating with Dubai Properties-a division of Dubai Holdings-on a project that is aimed to create one of the region's premier locations for living and working. After being invited to, and winning, an international design competition in Dubai in 2002, TVS recognised a burgeoning market in the UAE and myriad possibilities throughout the region. When its winning project design didn't come to fruition, TVS began pursuing other projects in the area-namely designing and/or masterplanning Dubai Media City, Dubai Expo Center, Dubai Sports City, Al Soufouh and the spiralling, candle-flickering Dubai Towers-and shortly thereafter, Dubai Properties contacted it about building Vision Tower, the gateway to Business Bay.
Awarded to TVS in 2005, and designed to incorporate 51 customised units in 500,000ft² of commercial space, Vision Tower aims at being one of New Dubai's iconic structures. Connected to Bay Avenue and several professional services via an exclusive pedestrian bridge, Vision Tower, slated for completion in the final quarter of 2008, will be Dubai Properties' only stand alone office tower in a city desperate for freehold commercial space.
TVS designed an angled sail-shaped curtain wall, which assures a unique spatial layout inside the commercial building. Vision Tower offices will range from 5,000 to 12,000ft² and be limited to the first 38 floors. And, because of its remarkable sculptural infrastructure, no two office spaces within Vision Tower will be identical, but they've all been studied and designed to address specific workplace criteria and to maximise productivity. "The office layout will be able to fit the spaces quite well and with optimal efficiency," says TVS principal architect, Manny Dominguez. "In the end, it's always nice to be in a great building, but it also needs to be an efficient place to work."
Vision Tower's entire façade will comprise a 60-storey glass curtain wall, which will be constructed of metal panels set into a customised, pin-supported glass system. Moreover, the glass chosen for the project is high-performance glass outfitted with transparent glazing, which means that it was chosen for its look as well as its ability to reflect the sun, reduce solar gain and offer a commanding view of the nearby Dubai Creek and Sheikh Zayed Road.
The façade-featuring transparent bent-glass-will be lit internally through the roof, which will act as a glass fin that is backlit to give the tower an elegant glow. The function of the glowing façade will be threefold: A chic source of illumination for onlookers; a symbol of confidence and stability for investors; and, ideally, an inspiration for those operating within its walls. "The façade gives off two kinds of light, depending on how the glazing is perceived," says Dominguez. "If you are in a low-rise building adjacent to the tower looking up, you will see the light reflect in one direction; while those in a high-rise building looking towards the tower will see the light reflected differently."
And, those reflections will be a distinctive element of Vision Tower for a long time to come, as the very nature of the façade is sleek, edgy, innovative and-because TVS chose a classic design instead of a ‘stylistic' or ‘moving' one-timeless.
Once Business Bay is completed, Vision Tower is positioned to, literally and figuratively, rub shoulders with some of Dubai's most prestigious addresses, but Dominguez insists that the philosophy behind Vision Tower goes further than aesthetics or addresses. In fact, he incorporates indigenous geological phenomena into his explanation for the design. "The bent glass façade of the Vision Tower is the building's signature element. The design team strived to create a sail-like object standing tall in the skyline of [Dubai's] desert community," says Dominguez. "The canted façade on the front side of the building incorporates the concept of ‘folded light', which occurs in desert sand dunes when one side of the dune is hit by light and the other side is shaded."
According to Dominguez, the building's black granite feature wall in the lobby was sourced from local materials and designed to meld together traditional Arabian architecture with the modernisation of Dubai. The granite backdrop also tries to convey a bold message about Dubai's identity within the Middle East and throughout the world. "The black granite wall in the lobby was designed to contrast with the clean lobby experience and provide an elegant backdrop for the lobby users. The wall has a rough texture with specialty lighting that emulates Dubai's kinetic activity and speed."
Combing the classic elegance in the curtain wall and the modern influences in the lobby, Vision Tower is aesthetically significant, but its proximity to a health club, selection of restaurants and a 1,420-car parking lot, suggests that form is just as important as function.
While much of the work for its worldwide client base is done out of its headquarters in Atlanta, TVS employees travel as often as necessary to ensure its clients receive personal attention. But, because of an increasing demand in Dubai, what was once a less influential role in the Middle East has-since December 2004-become a fully-functioning, 12-person office.
A firm whose name is usually attached to state-of-the-art convention centres, entertainment venues, education facilities and mixed-use developments, TVS has spent 35 years designing and constructing environmentally responsible interiors and exteriors. TVS is also well-known for bringing together clients, designers and consultants whenever necessary. "First of all, great projects require great clients. The entire team was very focused on design solution and made every effort towards the project goals," says Dominguez.
Despite its worldwide list of projects, TVS tries to use local materials when possible, and Vision Tower was no exception. "Dubai has great access to resources. [For Vision Tower] the materials were all sourced from within the region," says Dominguez. "Our design team consulted with Dewan [Al Emara Architects & Engineers], to identify the best approach to the design challenges, while always considering sourcing issues. We were able to locate almost everything that we needed in the region," says Dominguez.
Throughout the Vision Tower project, TVS worked with Dubai Properties and Dewan and, despite the size and influence of the respective companies, they achieved a symbiosis that was unexpected to even the project's head architect. When pressed about the obstacles overcome or challenges faced on the project, Dominguez found it difficult to give examples. "[We encountered] very few [challenges] actually. The team was up to speed in no time and we just seemed to hit that stride that kept everything going smoothly," says Dominguez. "Trust me, that doesn't happen very often in these hurried times."
In large development projects like Vision Tower and Business Bay, collaboration between developers, designers, clients and architects, often results in a multitude of challenges. It would seem, however, that these challenges never arose in the building of Vision Tower. "The client was and is wonderful to work with; they are very collaborative and have a keen desire for good design," says Dominguez. "The client truly had the desire to make this a great project. They were very interested in design matters and held a great deal of pride in all decisions."
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.
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.