PO Box 1150
United Arab Emirates
Middle Eastern cities are often criticized
for adopting derivative, western modern architecture rather than defining
their own identity. This would be a fair criticism of much of Dubai, but the
telecommunications headquarters building and radio tower by Canadian
architect Arthur Erickson is a prominent exception.
Based in British Columbia, Erickson is a
surprisingly rootless architect who had traveled in the Middle East since
the 1950s and created a variety of original
glass-and-concrete geometries around the world with
remarkably little constraint of a consistent house style. As Erickson
himself describes it, "I am fortunate that I can stand in Canada, a country
without a culture, and look at the world. When I am given a project... I can
say, "What is its essence? How can I extract something pertinent for today?"
While his fellow Canadians may not
appreciate his turn of phrase, they do appreciate the architect behind it.
The Dubai tower owes most in form to an
unbuilt design of Erickson's for the Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver in
1973, which included a steel and glass tower with a similar geometry of
glass prism at the top. In Dubai the sloping glass sets off the distinctive
radome "golf ball" containing Etisalat's radio antennas.
Erickson designed another office building
and tower for Etisalat in Abu Dhabi at the same time, in the same style with
matching "golf ball", and others have been added in other Emirates later. The "golf ball" towers, illuminated with a mesh of discrete white lights a
night, have become a symbol of Etisalat in the UAE. A second, taller Etisalat building has recently been built in Dubai, near the Emirates Towers, again with the signature golf ball. The materials from Erickson's original designs – the dark glass with green glazing, and reddish stone cladding – is used consistently across many different styles of Etisalat building around the UAE, as a form of branded architecture.
How to visit
Etisalat Tower in Dubai is on Baniyas Road in Deira, on the northeast side of the Creek,
across the road from the Sheraton Dubai Creek
hotel. The entrance foyer is open to the public as the
main Dubai service office of Etisalat, the telecommunications provider in