Rising above the Dubai Marina is a structure like none other... The Infinity Tower spirals by an amazing 90º as it ascends 73 storeys into the sky. Also called the Twisted Tower, this architectural marvel has been the centre of attraction ever since it was announced. The hype only gets bigger as the date of completion draws near. Jill Stockbridge investigates…
When we procured such an outstanding location in the Marina, we knew we had to do something really special, so we ran a design competition and invited the seven biggest consultants in the world to submit their ideas," revealed Ahmed Alhatti, Chairman, Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development, which is the company developing the Twisted Tower. Cayan got a variety of innovative designs as entries but the one from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, an award-winning international architectural firm, ultimately caught their imagination. "Skidmore's design was interesting, elegant and futuristic, but we wanted something even better. The original design twisted 60 degrees, and we asked if it was possible to take that further; to increase the twist in the tower to something that had never been done before," said Alhatti. A second design was produced and the architectural models compared. One distinctly stood out; Cayan had finally got their unique design.
As Infinity Tower stands today; it has a total rotation of 90 degrees, with a smooth twist of 1.08 degrees per floor (0.3 degrees per metre) spread over 73 floors. At 330 metres, it is also the tallest twisted tower in the world. What the increased coil implies is that every apartment in the tower has a view of the Arabian Sea or the Dubai Marina. Open space concepts have been used by the architects to ensure the absence of pillars in the building, thereby creating a free play of space and light. When complete, the tower will have residential apartments, conference rooms, tennis courts, pools, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, a nursery and a spa.
However, Cayan had a lot of explaining to do before they embarked on this ambitious project. "We were told that such a design is complicated and expensive to construct, and asked why we wanted to bring ourselves such challenges, to which we simply replied that we wanted to put Cayan on the map and the tower to stand out among the other architectural iconography in the marina," said Alhatti.
What lies beneath?
The Twisted Tower rotates as each of the 73 floors rotates 1.08 degrees around a circular fixed core to create a helix effect. The shape and size of these columns was determined by the results of wind tunnel testing and innovative engineering and 3D computer modelling analysis. Ahmed Kasem, Chief Development Officer, said, "As this was a unique and complex project, we had to use various modelling techniques to forecast what would happen in the case of high winds according to design criteria and due to the spiral shape, the building behaviour is different than normal shaped buildings, which most engineers are familiar with. The architects' primary concern was safety and stability, both, in design, and in the quality of materials and construction. We monitored the building throughout its construction and are therefore sure of its strength."
There was a great deal of pressure on the engineering team, with all the publicity and the daily progress photos appearing on skyscraper-spotter and architectural websites. "It was a challenging structure to build, especially the columns. Each column slants back to the midpoint and slants back to the edge. There is not one single column that is regular or typical. Usually, the columns go from the bottom to the top and taper on the same line of action, but these go up and step back. It took time and constant surveying. It was tedious work," said Kasem. "There are 48 columns in the building and every corner of each column changes location ('coordinates') four times on each floor. Also, unlike regular towers, the bathrooms are not directly above each other, which means the risers have to accommodate the twist. Even the basement parking is different, as you park on an inclined ramp, not flat floor parking," he added.
Colour me green
Not only is the Twisted Tower a magnificent structure, it also incorporates green features such as highly efficient lighting systems (unlike fluorescent or yellow light), partition walls made of recyclable materials and state-of-the-art centrifugal chillers for cooling. Pre-finished titanium metal panels on cast-in-place concrete perimeter columns, along with repetitive staggered screen panels, filter direct sunlight to units to reduce the radiant heat. An inboard glass line creates a deep sill to minimise direct light, and provides a screen effect, shading both glass and the terraces. According to Kasem, "The orientation of the ingress and the egress has been carefully done so as to ensure that the least amount of heat enters the building through air movement, to enable better temperature control."
Inside, the tower has on offer, studio, and one, two, three and four-bedroom apartments, as well as duplexes and penthouses. The contemporary styled interiors are second to none, with marble and wood finishes and high-end wallpapers throughout; fully-equipped kitchens and built-in wardrobes in all the rooms. Each resident is assured of secure parking, state-of-the-art security, 24x7 concierge, high speed Internet, access to digital/satellite TV and a provision for comprehensive automation for controlling lights, air-conditioning and other functions from a central handset.
"The common area of the tower is circular and so the marble used had to be pre-cut. Also, the colour of the marble is unique and only available from a certain factory in Turkey. The doors feature a horizontal grain. Everything is five-star," said Alhatti. Significantly, the stunning external design is reflected through the décor, but not through difficult room shapes. "The room areas appear normal and there is no problem with fitting furniture or paintings. From the inside, one cannot make out that the tower twists," Alhatti said.
Dream come true
Finally, the project is nearing completion, having suffered delays due to a foundation wall breach in 2007. Kasem is quick to praise the project's contractors, Arabtec. "Arabtec have proved to be amazing. They have an outstanding team and have managed to reduce the time period as much as possible, also K&A supported the Cayan Team to make the project a success.
At one point in time, they were finishing one floor every eight days and were still pushing to complete each floor in six days." Overall, the tower has been a great team effort, with the client, the contractor and the consultant all part of a learning culture.
And what's more, the Twisted Tower has been garnering design awards worldwide for quite a few years now, and these include the CNBC International Property Award for the Best High Rise Architecture, the International Property Award in the Best Architecture category, the Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award and International Architecture Award and the Arabian Property Award for Best High Rise Architecture. "We were winning an award for three years in a row. In the end, we stopped submitting our design," said Alhatti.
Indeed, the verdict is out: This extraordinary design is truly a classic of 21st century architecture!