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Aug / Sep 2011
Built to Inspire

Writer: Warren Singh-Bartlett / Illustration: Gina Abou Hamad

While cities like New York and Hong Kong are known for their verticality, it’s somehow fitting that the Middle East should once again become home to some of the tallest structures on earth. While purposefully ignoring the Burj Khalifa, Bespoke identifies some of the most standout buildings you didn’t know about:

1. The Great Pyramid, Giza
Big is beautiful. Easily the most recognisable structure on earth, the Great Pyramid continues to awe 4,661 years after its completion.

Commissioned by Khufu, it took twenty years to build and remained the tallest structure on earth for 3,800 years until the construction of the Lincoln Cathedral in the 14th Century.

Originally 146.5 metres high, the pyramid weighs an estimated 5.9 million tonnes. Destined to house a single (dead) individual, it may no longer be the tallest structure on earth but, pound-for-pound, it must still be one of the most extravagant.

2. Corm Building, Beirut
True, when it was built in 1929, the rather modest Corm Building loomed above its surroundings but it’s been many years since it could actually qualify as a skyscraper.

Designed by autodidact, Charles Corm, a businessman and poet with absolutely no background in architecture, the 8-storey ziggurat-like tower is significant because it is one of the only examples of the early 20th century’s Art Deco skyscraper boom to have been built in the region. Inspired by the towers Corm saw on his journey to the United States, the ground floor was initially the showroom and regional headquarters for Ford Motors and the upper levels comprised Corm’s private residence.

3. Infinity Tower, Dubai
Unlike Dubai’s other towers, most of which look like they might have been copied from Shanghai or Mumbai, the gently twisting Infinity Tower rising above the entrance to the Marina, has few competitors at the moment.

Infinity is the work of SOM - the multinational practice that also engineered the region’s most prominent creation, the Burj Khalifa - and when it is done, it will spiral up to a height of 330 metres.

On the way, each of its 80 floors is angled at 1.2 degrees to the one below so that by the time you get to the top, the whole titanium-clad building will have gracefully turned through an angle of 90 degrees.

4. Name: Al Dar HQ, Abu Dhabi
Accused of looking like an Olympic discus, the visually-impressive and dynamic headquarters of the UAE’s biggest real estate developer suggests that should it so choose, it could simply pick up and roll away.  

Though only 23 storeys tall, the building’s impressive diameter ensures that it dominates its surroundings. If skyscrapers are intended to shoot straight up into the sky, this one does, but in a circular fashion. It is the thinnest dome you have ever seen, like two dinner plates stuck together. This is where its steel diagrid design proves essential. The building’s skin becomes its structure, permitting the interiors to be both column and partition-free.  

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