National Bank of Dubai headquarters building
PO Box 777
Baniyas Road
United Arab Emirates 

Carlos Ott with NORR Limited 1997

Built in the mid-1990s, Carlos Ott’s headquarters building for the National Bank of Dubai was one of the city’s first deliberately iconic modern buildings, and set a standard that few of its many successors have lived up to. Together with its neighboring Etisalat telecommunications tower, it is the National Bank of Dubai headquarters that defines the skyline of Dubai’s original business district along the Creek.

The form of the building is inspired by the dhows that traditionally plied the Creek (and still do, though without sails). The tower is supported at the sides by two massive granite columns, and faced with glass curtain walls; on the Creek side this curtain wall curves gracefully from top to bottom, like a billowing sail.

Beneath this tower, with an air gap between that reinforces the sail image, is the horizontal banking hall, projecting to the front and back of the building. The hall itself, faced with green glass, represents the sea. The curved aluminum roof of the hall takes the shape of the glass sail above, rotated horizontally to represent the hull of the dhow.

The shapes are simple and powerful, particularly the relationship between ‘hull’ and ‘sail’, which is an elegant interpretation of the established block-and-slab model (see Lever House). As a bank, though, it is definitely from the era of communicating power and wealth, rather than anything more personal or friendly.

Simon Glynn 2005, updated 2008


How to visit

The National Bank of Dubai headquarters is on Baniyas Road in Deira, on the northeast side of the Creek, next to the Sheraton Dubai Creek hotel. The tower is an office building not open to the public, but the banking hall is accessible during banking hours, as well as a Pearl Museum within the building, for which the bank is the custodian. There is a promenade along the Creek, from the nearby dhow wharfage towards the Gulf, that passes by the National Bank of Dubai building.

Carlos Ott’s other buildings in Dubai include the neighboring Hilton Creek, a few minutes’ walk inland along the Creekside – a rather less inspired, sleek, curve-sided glass box. NORR’s other buildings include the Emirates Towers.

Books and other web sites

Carlos Ott provides further information and pictures, as well as information about his other buildings in the UAE, on his own web site, which was bizarrely under development when last checked.

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