Today, life in the Emirates moves in the fast lane. In a regular series to mark the 50th anniversary of the UAE, 'The National' takes a trip back in time to examine how much the country has changed.
Known everywhere simply as the “coin building”, the Aldar headquarters in Abu Dhabi is one of the most instantly recognisable in the country, indeed the world.
Perfectly circular, it is ideally located as a statement of intent by the company that built the Yas Marina F1 circuit and Ferrari World; impossible to ignore by anyone who travels between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The building was designed by Marwan Zgheib, the Lebanese architect, whose company has built several eye-catching buildings in the Middle East and Africa, including Doha’s Al Dana Tower, Abu Dhabi’s Wing or Youth Hub, and the under-construction Al Qana leisure district in the capital.
One face of the building overlooks the E10 motorway in Al Raha Beach, another Aldar project, while the other faces the sea.
Built by the engineers Arup, the building was completed in just 30 months, in time for the first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009.
The 121-metre-high, 23-storey structure has a framework that removes most internal columns, and was the first of its kind in the UAE.
To speed construction, many of the internal elements, including stairs and toilet modules, were pre-assembled, while a rethink of the glass exterior by Arup reduced the number of individual shapes for the panes from more than 10,000 to just 10.
The building’s east-west alignment allows its exterior to catch both the rising and setting sun, while also reducing its exposure in the hottest hours of the day.
Cleaning the 62,000 square metres of glass is almost continuous, using a specially designed cradle. It takes place four times a year and takes up to three months to complete each cycle.
For those who might be wondering, the circular design does not continue underground.
But it exactly adopts the principle of the “golden ratio”, a mathematical formula first developed in Ancient Greece, which imagines a pentangle inside a circle as a human figure, where the feet – or in this case the ground floor – are placed firmly on the ground.