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  • Writer's pictureLiz Totton

Lady’s Legs Bridge and Inspired Architecture

Al Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi

Al Bahar Towers, the Honeycomb, Pineapple buildings, if you will.

I have always loved Architecture; it is the academic companion to Art History, which is what I chose to study in school. I almost became an architect. I used to spend days on end, as a school girl, studying Architectural Digest and drawing every beautiful home I saw in the magazine pages. I stopped drawing them long ago, but I still am enamored by the creativity it takes to create a new and visionary style of domicile or to visualize the design of a colossal skyscraper, which seems to be suspended precariously—just barely—above your head on a city street. When I was young, my parents used to take me into New York City to see all the buildings in the downtown area. I remember distinctly how much I loved looking up, the towers loomed over you as though they were not the straight and linear structures you knew rationally that they were. I think that was my first lesson in perspective as both an artist and a free-thinker. Everything I thought I knew about architecture has been, figuratively, turned up on its head here in Abu Dhabi. Let us have a chat about Lady’s Legs Bridge and Inspired Architecture in the U.A.E.

I know visionary architecture is still popping up all around the world, but it really feels to me like an awful lot more of it is happening, right here and right now, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai—the whole region really. Westerners should know about it after all, we have--in part–financed all these architectural wonders with my country’s well-known addiction to Oil. Behold, my country people, these are your feats of architecture, kinda, sorta? Have no doubt, they are fantastic! Thank goodness some art and beauty came out of all that oil money and not just malls, fast cars and high heeled shoes, right?!

Hyatt Gate Hotel, aka Wavy Buidling.

Hyatt Gate Hotel, aka “Wavy Buidling.”

I want to share are few buildings that I have encountered around Abu Dhabi and Dubai that I think are amazing. I just know that there is a story behind each and every architectural wonder that I see here. I have known enough architects to know that, in divining a truly visionary structure, the architect generally starts out with a vision, concept or metaphor–often something very paradoxical to a structure. A friend, whose husband is a bridge designer here, told me that the striking Sheikh Zayed Highway bridge over the E10 highway—the one that looks like waves to me—was actually inspired by a woman’s legs in repose or perhaps in childbirth if you are driving through it. Don’t get grossed out (some might), that would be a VERY abstract take on the concept of this bridge, maybe, probably, IDK–I didn’t make it. When she first said it my thoughts were, “No way, not here. This is a Muslim country.” Doesn’t that seem audacious to you? Well that architect was apparently a woman of middle eastern descent based in London; her name is Zaha Hadid. Maybe that’s not so strange? After all, the woman’s figure has been a source of artistic and architectural inspiration for thousands of years, hasn’t it? Why not a bridge?

Burj Khalifa Early Drawings

Burj Khalifa Preliminary Drawing

Getting back to the other architectural wonders of Abu Dhabi, I really don’t even know how to follow that bridge. I suppose I will show you a few photos of other buildings that I admire here but, before that, let’s talk about the conceptual. When I was thinking about this post, I looked around for anything that I could find about architectural inspiration. It turns out that architects are a lot like artists (some might say they are indeed artists); some like to keep their concepts and inspiration close to their hearts. Creativity is often a very private kind of thing. Some artists like to shout their inspiration off the rooftops; others like to keep you guessing. I did stumble on a preliminary drawing, supposedly for the Burj Khalifa–the world’s tallest building for now. I found it so relevant to this discussion. Apparently, the architect, Adrian Smith, was commissioned to make a building, not only the tallest in the world, but also reflective of the culture and magnificent–tall order! So, he drew this, which I love. It apparently reflects some exotic sensibilities of the so-called “east” by western architects, but I think the drawing was just a starting point of sorts for him. When you are given a lion’s task, you have to start somewhere, right? He went with the things he thought that people loved here. 

I think I could easily blog about the architecture here for a long time, but I am an Art History major, so I am off the hook. I will remain interested in it forever though and aware of it as long as I am here. I leave you with my many favorite buildings here. I have left off (and included) so many and some I cannot identify. If you can, please let me know what they are. I would appreciate that.  [lg_slideshow folder=”Architecture of the UAE/”]

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