Twisting to Infinity

Twisting to Infinity

The designers dreamt the future with this building, envisioning a structure like one never built before. Seven years and three months later, architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill’s (SOM) dream has become a reality.

For developers and owners Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development, the completed tower is a testimony of their firm conviction and dedication to the building.

Despite the numerous challenges, such as the 2007 collapse of the Dubai Marina wall which led to the entire Infinity Tower site being submerged under water, and the 2008 global financial meltdown which inadvertently led to escalating costs, Cayan remained committed to the development of this project.

Construction of the building was left primarily to the team from Khatib & Alami, which had a design contract with SOM and a supervision contract with Cayan.

“It is an ideal relationship because as the designers and engineers for the project it is easy for us to communicate with our headquarters whenever we have issues,” explains Dr Montasser El Raie, senior resident engineer, Khatib & Alami.

The site
The tour of the site began at the lobby, which is snugly cushioned at the north corner of the building, facing the Dubai Marina. Wood panels, cut in the shape of Infinity Tower’s logo, line the walls in the lobby to offer visitors the ‘infinity experience’ right from the entrance.

As a result of the twists and turns that give the tower its signature shape, there are certain pockets of spaces, especially at building corners, which are oddly shaped and sized.

“Frankly speaking, this is one of the disadvantages when you have an unusual structure. There will be some areas that might seem redundant but they are actually not totally redundant. They just need some effort and can be used for other purposes,” explains El Raie. It is possibly for this reason that the lobby has a very high ceiling, approximately three storeys in height, to make up for the confined lobby area.

From there, the tour party steps out of the tower to view the massive structure that stands above. Unlike other buildings in the Marina, Infinity Tower seems to have an advantage over its location. Adjacent buildings are a comfortable 10 metres away, unlike the rest of the area where buildings are closely packed to one another.

“We needed to have this space around us because of the structure of this building. Part of the building is actually protruding outside of the building’s footprint by about 10m,” explains El Raie.

He continues: “This is one very peculiar thing about the project. It is the only project in Dubai where the client had to pay for the airspace, because of the twist.”

The exterior of the building is clad with aluminum perforated panels to add some texture to the tower. “The panels have been randomly distributed to give some complexity to the elevation. It is mainly for decorative purposes,” explains Ayman Sami Othman, assistant resident engineer, Khatib & Alami.

From the lobby, we made our way up to the 76th floor – the highest point –to see the crown of the tower.

The elevators that take us to the top, travel at a speed of 8m/s, slightly slower than Burj Khalifa’s speedy 10m/s elevators.

A total of seven elevators, supplied by Kone, serve the entire building. Three elevators are dedicated solely for lower floors, another three elevators for the upper floors and one elevator for service use.

The highest residential unit is a penthouse on the 72nd floor. The 73rd and 28th floors are used for mechanical processes while the 76th floor, which is only accessible to select staff, constitutes the roof of the building.

At the 76th floor, the tower measures a total of 1,053 feet, a height specifically calculated so that Infinity Tower could be ranked alongside other tall buildings in the world.

The last three levels of the crown columns are connected with cables that have been assembled to hold the perforated aluminium panels. “People will look at the building and all they will see is perforated panels flying high. Nobody will know how because they will not be able to see the cables,” explains Othman.

In addition, the tower’s crown will be fitted with LED projectors to complement the façade tube lights that will be placed along the entire length of the building’s four corners. “At night, it will seem like the lights are going all the way up. The concept is to have a continuation of light to eternity,” Othman adds.

Building spaces
MEA visited two differently configured two-bedroom apartments on the sixth and seventh storey, both of which offered spacious living room and kitchen areas.

A combination of teal, grey and purple tiles lines the kitchen counter, offering residents a splash of color to complement the surrounding views of Dubai Marina. All apartments are fitted with appliances from Bosch, Grohe and Siemens and some also come with walk-in closets.

The residential building offers studios, one, two, three and four bedroom apartments, as well as duplexes and penthouses. There are a total of 492 residential units. It has six podium parking levels and amenities such as a swimming pool, outdoor tennis court and retail outlets.

On the sixth floor of the tower sits a landscaped garden bearing the shape of the Infinity Tower logo and a clubhouse for guests to enjoy gym facilities and to unwind outdoors. This is also the only space in the tower that allows residents to enjoy views other than that offered from their apartments.

At the core of this thousand foot twisting structure is a cylinder made of one-metre thick concrete. The rest of the building is essentially like wheels about an axle, resulting in a 90-degree helical twist that grants the tower’s luxury residential apartments expansive views of the surrounding environment.

Due to the building’s structural requirements, the central core occupies close to 30% of the building’s floor plan. As a result, the walkway between the cement core and the entrance to apartment units span a width of less than two metres.

Once the apartment doors open, you are greeted by stunning views of either the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Jumeirah Lake Towers or Sheikh Zayed Road. The glass windows fill every square metre of the apartment with abundance of light, while the perforated panels cast an artistic shadow on the marble floors, keeping some heat out.

Providing shade from the intense heat was one of the main challenges that SOM had to overcome with Infinity tower. According to SOM, besides the metal panels which clad the reinforced concrete structure and offer some shade from the heat, the winding shape of the building itself helps shade its interior.

The interior columns throughout the floor plan all share the same rotation along the form, resulting in a gradual step or fan of the structural elements, which radiate outward from the cylindrical core.

“Virtually every floor is identical,” says William Baker, structural engineer, SOM. “We try to take something that’s complex and make it simple. Simple for the exterior guys, simple for the concrete guys, simple for the sales agent. It is the same floor plate because every floor rotates around the central column.”

Although the design idea seemed relatively straightforward, the engineers were faced with unheard of challenges during the building’s construction phase.

“The concept of the building is simple. The flat on the ground floor looks east. The same flat on the top looks south. It is exactly 90 degrees. But let me tell you, this was not an all an easy project,” El Raie explains.

Due to the fact that the structure is twisted, the bathrooms and kitchens are not on top of one another, as typically found in recti-linear buildings.

“We have to take into consideration that sometimes, penetration from the bathroom on one floor, will be going into the living room of an apartment on another floor. If the bathrooms were on top of each other, we would have no problem but because the apartments are moving, the flats underneath are not aligned and require additional work,” El Raie elaborates.

As a result, the team had to build mock-ups at every stage along the way to ensure that the building would be constructed without any glitches. El Raie explains that the various additional processes like surveys, and mock-ups, are what make the construction cost 30% to 35% higher than regular buildings.

“If you want to live in an iconic building, you have to pay a little bit more extra, and there are a lot of people who are willing to pay the price,” El Raie adds.

He continues: “A lot of people just love the way the building looks from the outside and are eager to live here. Infinity Tower is an icon and people will love to say that they live in the twisting tower.”

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