PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE
Hazel W. S. Wong
Initiated in the mid 1990's as an invited international design competition by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and United Arab Emirates Defence Minister, the intention of the Emirates Towers project was to create a landmark development, comprising twin office towers to frame and to be at least twice the height of the 149-metre Dubai World Trade Centre, the latter being an existing focal point in the City built by his late father Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum over twenty years ago. My proposed winning competition design (Fig. 1) realized this objective through the creation of twin slender towers, carefully located to pay homage to an existing landmark, and flanked at each tower base by low curvilinear buildings, in forms reminiscent of massive, shifting sand dunes, housing parking and service elements.
Despite subsequent market analysis that necessitated the conversion of the shorter of the two office towers into a hotel and the incorporation of a 2-storey retail component at the base, the overall design was sensitively and faithfully retained throughout the development.
The site for the project, approximately 500 metres × 350 metres and 169,000 square metres in area is located along a major thoroughfare in the new bustling commercial and residential centre of the city. The design concentrates the buildings away from the highway in a central portion of the site. This way the project is distinctly set apart from the standard commercial development and the twin towers are positioned so as to create meaningful visual compositions from every viewpoint. The site has been organized around five primary structures - the office tower, the hotel tower, retail podium and associated parking buildings. A primary ring road conveniently accesses all components on the site. A series of terraced urban plazas are introduced at the tower bases with landscape elements including an 80 metre wide waterfall, lakes, fountains and causeway.