Dubai architecture has historically been a bit hit and miss at times, but these days there’s really many more hits than misses. The era of fake Big Ben-style towers built in a hurry has kind of been ushered out, and now the best architecture firms in Dubai are embracing originality, creativity and modernity in their architecture and design.
While they didn’t quite make the top 10 list, we should give honourable mentions to a few other buildings, such as Princess Tower in the Marina and the weird new frame they’ve nearly finished. Also, the Museum of the Future due to be completed in 2017, Ubora Tower in Business Bay, and Bluewaters with its Dubai Eye soon to be installed. Omitted from the list are buildings such as the mock-Disney castle tackiness of The Atlantis, the severely dated Burj Al Arab, and for obvious reasons – The Address Downtown and The Torch Tower.
10 stunning examples of Dubai Architecture
From luxury Dubai hotels to soaring residential towers, some old and some new, Inside Dubai runs down the 10 most stunning examples of Dubai Architecture.
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
This Thai-themed hotel is perhaps the best place to go if you’re holidaying in Dubai but you hate Dubai. The architecture and interior design is unlike any other development in the emirate, taking its influence from traditional far eastern and Thai resorts, and feeling a million miles away from the super busy Shiekh Zayed Road and all that goes with it. The wonderful hotel complex is set upon a lagoon, which is the biggest swimming pool I’ve ever seen, and you can swim up to most of the apartments in the complex, which is a unique and memorable experience.
Did you know? The hotel also has 18 over water villas that stretch out into the sea. You don’t get these at The Atlantis.
Ocean Heights is one of the most creative and modern home architecture designs in Dubai. The tower was designed by world-renowned architect, Andrew Bromberg, who works for architecture and engineering consultants, Aedas. He has also designed some of the best architecture Abu Dhabi has on offer too. The 82-storey tower is one of the standout buildings in the self-proclaimed ‘tallest neighbourhood in the world’, featuring a twisting, curved appearance as it ascends. The building has within it more than 500 apartments, and is the fifth tallest residential tower in the world.
Did you know? Property developer Damac demanded Bromberg complete the design within just one week from request, after rejecting two previous designs from other architects.
The Zaha Hadid-designed Opus building is as unique and striking as we’ve come to expect from the late designer. The curved glass and LED lighting that features within a freeform void in the middle of the building make The Opus quite without compare in the world of Dubai architecture. Built by property developer Brookfield Multiplex alongside one of the leading architecture companies in Dubai – Brewer Smith Brewer Gulf (BSBG), it’s daring, it’s futuristic and it’s certainly iconic. The building, set in the rapidly growing Business Bay district, is due to be completed in 2017 and will feature luxury residential units, a 5 star hotel and offices.
Did you know? The Opus represents Zaha Hadid’s first building in Dubai.
The award-winning Cayan Tower in the marina is a standout piece of architecture in Dubai. Featuring a 90-degree twist and standing at 72-storeys, Cayan is one of the most recognised towers anywhere in the world. The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) architectural group, who were also behind the concept for the Burj Khalifa. Construction of the tower was delayed for over a year when a wall holding back the waters of the marina was breached and the entire basement became flooded. But upon completion in 2013, a celebratory firework and laser show was presented to introduce the building to the world.
Did you know? Cayan won the Best Tall Building Award from the Middle East & Africa Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
DAMAC Towers by Paramount Hotels & Resorts
Of all the architecture firms and property developers in Dubai, it is pretty much between Emaar and Damac for the crown of Dubai construction. You’d say that Emaar probably had the edge, but with this stunning four-tower complex currently edging nearer to being finished, Damac may well have brought itself neck and neck with its big rival. When up close, this development seems to defy all logic. Four towers sit on the very edge of a circular podium, looking like they could fall off the edge at any moment. Each tower stands at 250m and 58 storeys, while the podium is a gigantic 10-storey offering. The finished development will house 1,200 residences.
Did you know? As it’s called Paramount Hotels and Residences, hotel guests will get to enjoy Hollywood blockbusters made by the movie studios throughout their stay in the exclusive hotel.
It’s obvious, but it’s necessary to include this in the list. The Burj Khalifa is a feat of modern engineering the like of which we have never seen before. Yes, it was built mainly by Abu Dhabi money, and yes the sewage and waste water gets trucked out by a fleet of 40 tankers per day, but frankly, when you’re looking up at it, the focal point of Dubai is mesmerising and quite stunning. Although it does look a bit out of place as it’s so much taller than anything else near it, anyone who can get a building that high to stay up deserves a lot of credit. God job everyone.
Did you know? It took 22 million man hours to build the Burj Khalifa, and often more than 12,000 construction workers were onsite each day.
A popular meeting place for the city’s leaders, The Jumeirah Emirates Towers are symbolic and synonymous with modern Dubai. One hotel and one office tower make up the complex, which also features a mall within which some of the most exclusive names in jewellery and fine dining offer their services. The glass lift ride up provides a memorable experience in the hotel tower, although probably best to avoid if you’re scared of heights. In fact it’s probably best to avoid Dubai if you’re scared of heights. The Emirates Towers complex is suffused with innovation and creativity in architecture and interior design.
Did you know? Despite both towers having the same number of floors, there is more than 50ft between their respective heights.
JW Marriott Marquis
The 5 star JW Marriott Marquis in Business Bay was completed in 2012, becoming the tallest hotel in the world. The architect, Ashok Korgaonkar of Archgroup International Consultants designed the symmetrical 72-storey towers, which rest upon a gigantic seven-storey podium. The form of the towers is said to have been designed to pay homage to one of the Arab world’s favourite things – the date (the fruit, definitely not the social occasion). An example of Dubai architecture done well.
Did you know? While the hotel is run by Marriott, it’s owned by Emirates Airline.
St Regis Dubai
Situated next to the soon to be flooded Dubai Canal, the St Regis brand is owned by Starwood Hotels, and is the epitome of stylish luxury. The hotel building has been one of the most eagerly anticipated in Dubai, due to its prominent location alongside Sheikh Zayed Road and the classical beaux-arts architecture of the building. It’s now open, although it sits within the middle of what essentially amounts to a massive building site. Once the whole of Habtoor City and the canal is complete however, the St Regis will form the centrepiece of the new pace to be in Dubai.
Did you know? Every room in the hotel comes with a personal 24-hour butler.
ICD Brookfield Place, DIFC
When completed, ICD Brookfield Place will become the prominent development in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Two of Dubai’s biggest construction and architecture names are working on ICD. Foster + Partners and BSBG are collaborating on a project that has been billed as representing the new breed of Dubai architecture. The 53-storey sheer crystalline glass structure is set not only to make an indelible mark on Dubai’s skyline, but is also likely to achieve the highest LEED rating for sustainability once opened.
Did you know? As the sun moves through the sky the prismatic structure and façade will reflect in such a way that the building takes on a different appearance at various stages during the day.
Those are quite clearly the best examples of Dubai architecture… Think you know better? Tell us all about it.