Dara Towhidi
Foster + Partners, Dubai

A) First Twisted Tower in the Middle East
B) 30-story office tower (finished floor level of the highest occupiable) + vertical and tent-shape element

One of the most fascinating (and eye-catching) skyscrapers are the twisted towers. This specific typology of skyscrapers with twisted structures are becoming more common according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat which register in a recent report 15 built and 13 under construction. Santiago Calatrava’s Turning Torso (2005) is considered the first twisted tower built but, was it the first twisted skyscraper designed?

In the early 80s, the Spanish architect Miguel Fisac designed a twisted tower for Abu Dhabi. This tower would have been the main element of a Convention and Exhibition Center for the capital of the UAE. This 30-story tower had a square floor plan that progressively rotated its floor plates as it gained height. In this case, , the top offset would have been 45 degrees from the base so each floor would have rotated 1.5 degrees in relation to the lower one. Thus, the exterior surface would have been a continuous hyperbolic paraboloid. In addition, the tower would have been crowned by a “structural and artistic solution which consists on a big camp tent made of transparent shells hanging from steel cables” to link the building with the region.

Currently, the UAE has the tallest building in the world and is ranked in the fourth position regarding its number of tall buildings (according the own CTBUH). It even has two of the highest twisted buildings in the world. Nonetheless, the country and its capital had still a flat and low skyline (maximum 6/7 floors) in the early 80s. The only tall building in that moment was the 39-story World Trade Center (1979) designed by John Harris in Dubai and Abu Dhabi's maximum height was 6/7 floors in those years. Therefore, what would have happened if Abu Dhabi had started the skyscraper race with Fisac’s proposal? Would have Abu Dhabi substituted Dubai as the “tallest” city in the region? And, how would have been the development of the tall buildings if this twisted tower would have been built in the early 80s (25 years before Calatrava's tower)?

Accompanying PowerPoint Presentation