Park Place shows off its building bulge

Most high-rise structures in this region are designed around familiar shapes from the natural or physical world.

But Park Place on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai takes the form of something less obvious – a perfume bottle. Christopher Sell reports.

It doesn’t take a degree in architecture to appreciate that the iconic high-rises gracing Dubai’s skyline today owe more than just high-rise stature for their place in the conscience of the emirate’s populace. It is clear that designers do not just look to construct a super high-rise tower to stand apart; it is the design, the conception of the building that is as important as the number of storeys it features.

Dubai is awash with buildings with evocative symbols borrowed from the natural or physical world. The Burj Al Arab is designed to represent a billowing sail, while the Dusit Dubai is shaped in such a way as to reflect a Thai hand gesture. And the Burj Dubai is inspired by the geometrics of the desert flower and patterning systems employed in Islamic architecture.

We can now add to this list the soon-to-be-completed Park Place Tower located near the Trade Centre Roundabout on the Sheikh Zayed Road. With a budget of US $68 million to $81.5 million (AED250-300 million) and rising to a height of 237m, the new development, a joint venture between Higgs and Hill and ACC, bears a unique cojoined design, purported to reflect the design of the client’s favourite perfume bottle, which he came across 10 years ago and retains in his possession.

The building has been designed by Australian firm Cox Architecture Planning Design, following a design competition between six top international architectural firms who competed to meet the brief. Humaid Bin Drai Enterprises is the client.

Comprised of three sections: Alpha, Beta and Gamma, each of which varies in dimension, the building’s tower façade system is one of the most difficult ever designed as it contains curvatures in the horizontal and vertical planes which change throughout the height of the tower.

By its very nature, a bespoke design gives rise to far more vagaries of engineering than a more conventional building shape, as Mohammed Faten, construction manager ACC, is quick to point out. “The hardest bit about the structure is the inclination [on Alpha]. The building inclines from zero to the 28th floor and then from the 28th floor it returns back again. It is a 3D building,” he says.

However, while this distended shape – which bulges 5.6m at the 28th floor – was factored into the build, Faten admits it created a lot of engineering complications.

“Well this is it; for each level you go up, the horizontal plane is changing, as is the vertical. Each vertical column is changed as is its location, so the formwork for each floor must also change.”

So how do you manage to maintain five-day cycles? “With a great effort; we have a night shift with workers running 24 hours continually,” he says.

This effort extended to the external façade of the building, which, encumbered by the same structural abnormalities, presented equally challenging problems when fixing the cladding and glass. “The start was a learning curve,” Faten concedes. “We did not know how many panels per day we could fix. We started at 10 to 12 per day; now we have got used to it, teams are fitting 30 panels a day. But on a normal tower we would get much more than that. It is not a straightforward job.”

Not only does the inclination pose structural questions, it creates significant material issues, the core of which is that all the glass panels featured on the alpha section of the building are fractionally different in size to their neighbours.

This means that thousands of windows are all unique in size, with each panel changing by a matter of millimetres in some cases. “The façade on alpha is a unitised curtain wall,” explains Faten. “On this particular building we have 2,300 panels and each panel changes size; every single one. A stack assembly of each pane takes time; furthermore it is double glazing and each piece of glass is different. So we have 4,600 pieces of glass of a different size; it is a complicated structure.” Apart from the unitised façade system, the other aluminium and glass technology used are composite cladding for the beta tower and a stick Schuco system for Gamma.

With a height of 237m, Park Place will become the third tallest building on the Sheikh Zayed Road behind the 333m Rose Tower – also an ACC development – and Emirates Towers.

Its proximity to the emirate’s busiest thoroughfare is another potential obstacle, says Faten, but with the repeated analysis by an acoustic consultant and acoustic windows combined with acoustic underlay between floors, any issues that may have arisen due to the noise created by the road or ambient noise generated from occupancy above or below ground, have been overcome.

Having started piling in 2004, Park Place is earmarked for completion in March 2007, where it will open for mixed-use tenants.

Faten explains that the raft of the building is 4.5m in depth, utilising 6,000m3 of concrete, which was poured in 28 hours. “We did the core in 6,528 hours,” he adds. “The system for the formwork is a slipform. We have slipped the core and shear walls to go ahead of the structure to maintain the cycle required. The programme is well compressed and the cycle is very tight so obviously to adhere to all the safety and quality demands, it is quite a challenge to maintain a six-day cycle.”

So smooth has the construction process been, in the face of the supply, material and labour issues affecting the market, that the client is keen to transfer the entire team onto the next project, the Park Plaza located near the Rose Tower, which is currently at the design stage.

For those who may walk past and wonder where the design is from, Humaid Bin Drai plans to put the perfume bottle on display to appease those inquisitive enough to want to know the building’s original inspiration. They may be surprised something so small can lead to something quite so big.

“The hardest bit about the structure is the inclination. The building inclines from zero to the 28th floor and then from the 28th floor it returns back again. It is a 3D building. For each level you go up, the horizontal plane is changing, as is the vertical ... so the formwork for each floor must also change.” Mohammed Faten, construction manager, ACC

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