Tom Wright is the architect and designer of the Burj al Arab in Dubai, UAE.

The Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs) was conceived in October 1993 and completed on site in 1999. The lower left image shows Tom Wright′s first drawing of the Burj al Arab concept that was shown to the client in October 1993 which along with the simple card model shown above convinced the client that the tower should be built. The felt pen illustration to the left was an early development sketch of the hotel drawn by Wright on a paper serviette whilst he sat on the terrace of the Chicago Beach hotel which stood adjacent to the site of the Burj al Arab.

The brief to the architect was to create an icon for Dubai, a building that would become synonymous with the place, as Sydney has its opera house and Paris the Eiffel Tower so Dubai was to have the Burj al Arab. On the links page the Atkins Press pack can be downloaded which contains further information on the Burj al Arab.

Tom Wright lived in Dubai during the design and construction of the project working as the project Design Director for Atkins one of the world′s leading multi discipline design consultancies.

Since 1999 Tom Wright has continued to work for Atkins as Head of Architecture from the Atkins H.Q. in Epsom, London.

Tom Wright is British, born in Croydon a suburb of London on 18th September 1957. Educated at the Royal Russell School and then Kingston Polytechnic school of Architecture. Wright became a member of the Royal institute of British Architects in 1983 and has been in practice ever since.

Technical Details fabric atrium wall by David Dexter

The solution to overcome the complex 3-dimensional shape of the hotel atrium wall whilst maintaining the overall sail-like form of the building was to provide a series of shaped membrane panels that could be pattered to the defined geometry.

The membrane is constructed from 2 skins of PTFE coated fibreglass separated by an air gap of approximately 500mm and pre-tensioned over a series of trussed arches. These arches span up to 50 metres between the outer bedroom wings of the hotel which frame the atrium, and are aligned with the vertical geometry of the building. The double-curved membrane panels so formed are able to take positive wind pressures by spanning from truss to truss and negative wind pressures by spanning sideways. Additional cables have been provided running on the surface of the fabric to reduce the deflection of the membrane.

The trussed arches which can extend out from the supports by up to 13 metres are supported vertically at the 18th and 26th floors by a series of 52mm diameter cross-braced macaloy bars. Girders at these floors transfer the load to the core structure. These bars are then pre-tensioned to ensure that the whole structure remains in tension.

An expansion joint is provided for the full height of the building on the right hand side of the wall. This enables the building to 'breath' under wind loads and avoids the exertion of large horizontal loads on the relatively weak bedroom structures.

The resulting form is entirely appropriate for the building and its function with the fabric reducing solar gain into the atrium and providing an effective diffused light quality. It is also appropriate for the Middle-East region where its predicted lifespan and self-cleansing qualities should resist the aggressive environment.

Technical Details fabric atrium wall by David Dexter

The solution to overcome the complex 3-dimensional shape of the hotel atrium wall whilst maintaining the overall sail-like form of the building was to provide a series of shaped membrane panels that could be pattered to the defined geometry.

The membrane is constructed from 2 skins of PTFE coated fibreglass separated by an air gap of approximately 500mm and pre-tensioned over a series of trussed arches. These arches span up to 50 metres between the outer bedroom wings of the hotel which frame the atrium, and are aligned with the vertical geometry of the building. The double-curved membrane panels so formed are able to take positive wind pressures by spanning from truss to truss and negative wind pressures by spanning sideways. Additional cables have been provided running on the surface of the fabric to reduce the deflection of the membrane.

The trussed arches which can extend out from the supports by up to 13 metres are supported vertically at the 18th and 26th floors by a series of 52mm diameter cross-braced macaloy bars. Girders at these floors transfer the load to the core structure. These bars are then pre-tensioned to ensure that the whole structure remains in tension.

An expansion joint is provided for the full height of the building on the right hand side of the wall. This enables the building to 'breath' under wind loads and avoids the exertion of large horizontal loads on the relatively weak bedroom structures.

The resulting form is entirely appropriate for the building and its function with the fabric reducing solar gain into the atrium and providing an effective diffused light quality. It is also appropriate for the Middle-East region where its predicted lifespan and self-cleansing qualities should resist the aggressive environment.

The hotel rests on an artificial island constructed 280 metres offthe Dubai shore and 450m to its furthest point.

To make the foundation secure, its builders drove 230 40 metre long concrete piles into the sand. The foundation is held in place by the friction of the sand and the silt along the length of the piles. The surface of the island was created using large rocks which were circled with a concrete ‘honeycomb′ pattern armour which serves to protect the foundations from erosion.

Of the hotel's total five year construction period, it took 3 years to complete the island.

The following stages were involved in the island construction process: Temporary tube piles driven into sea bed Temporary sheet piles and tie rods driven into sea bed to support boundary rocks Permanent boundary rock bunds deposited either side of sheet piles Hydraulic fill layers deposited between bunds to displace sea water and form island (see figure 2 with fill layers partially complete) Permanent concrete armour units placed around island to protect it from the waves 2m diameter 43m deep piles driven through island and sea bed below to stabilize structure (see figure 3) Island interior excavated and temporary sheet pile coffer dam inserted 2m thick concrete plug slab laid at base of island Reinforced concrete retaining wall built Basement floors created (see figure 4)

THE ISLAND
The hotel rests on an artificial island constructed 280 metres offthe Dubai shore and 450m to its furthest point.

To make the foundation secure, its builders drove 230 40 metre long concrete piles into the sand. The foundation is held in place by the friction of the sand and the silt along the length of the piles. The surface of the island was created using large rocks which were circled with a concrete ‘honeycomb′ pattern armour which serves to protect the foundations from erosion.

Of the hotel's total five year construction period, it took 3 years to complete the island.

The following stages were involved in the island construction process: Temporary tube piles driven into sea bed Temporary sheet piles and tie rods driven into sea bed to support boundary rocks Permanent boundary rock bunds deposited either side of sheet piles Hydraulic fill layers deposited between bunds to displace sea water and form island Permanent concrete armour units placed around island to protect it from the waves 2m diameter 43m deep piles driven through island and sea bed below to stabilize structure Island interior excavated and temporary sheet pile coffer dam inserted 2m thick concrete plug slab laid at base of island Reinforced concrete retaining wall built Basement floors created

THE HOTEL
Architect: Tom Wright of Atkins The interior was designed by Khuan Chew, Design Principal of KCA International (London). The Burj Al Arab artificial island

The building design features a steel exoskeleton wrapped around a reinforced concrete tower. Notably the building is shaped like the sail of a dhow, with two "wings" spread in a V to form a vast "mast". The space between the wings is enclosed by a Teflon-coated fibreglass sail, curving across the front of the building and creating an atrium inside. The sail is made of a material called Dyneon, spanning over 161,000 square feet (15,000 m²), consists of two layers, and is divided into twelve panels and installed vertically. The fabric is coated with DuPont Teflon to protect it from harsh desert heat, wind, and dirt; as a result, "the fabricators estimate that it will hold up for up to 50 years."[9]

During the day, the white fabric allows a soft, milky light inside the hotel, whereas a clear glass front would produce blinding amounts of glare and a constantly increasing temperature. At night, both inside and outside, the fabric is lit by color-changing lights. During the period of mourning following the death of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum in January 2006, the light show and some water features were turned off.

Near the top of the building is a suspended helipad supported by a cantilever. The helipad has featured some of the hotel's notable publicity events. Irish singer Ronan Keating shot his music video Iris on the helipad. In March 2004, professional golfer Tiger Woods hit several golf balls from the helipad into the Persian Gulf, while in February 2005, professional tennis players Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played an unranked game on the helipad, which was temporarily converted into a grass tennis court, at a height of 211 meters. The helipad has no borders or fences on the edges and if a player hit a winner the tennis balls would plunge down to the ground.[10][11]

Interior
The interior was designed by Khuan Chew, Design Principal of KCA International. Other projects by Khuan Chew include the Sultan of Brunei's Palace, Dubai International Airport, Jumeirah Beach Resort Development, Madinat Resort and much more.

The Burj Al Arab features the tallest atrium lobby in the world, at 180 meters (590 ft). The atrium is formed between the building's V-shaped span. The atrium dominates the interior of the hotel, and takes up over one-third of interior space. It can accommodate the Dubai World Trade Center building, which, at 38 stories, was the tallest building in Dubai from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s.

While the exterior of the Burj Al Arab is expressed in terms of ultra-modern sculptural design, the interior guest space is a compilation of lavish and luxurious architectural styles from both the east and the west. The hotel boasts 8,000 square meters of 22-carat gold leaf and 24,000 square meters of 30 different types of marble.

In the mezzanine lobby, a fountain creates a "three-dimensional Islamic star pattern."[12] Pointed arches throughout, found in one of the hotel’s three restaurants, corridors between guest rooms, and at the top of the atrium recall a classic Arabian architectural design form.

Rooms and prices
Despite its size, the Burj Al Arab holds only 28 double-story floors which accommodate 202 bedroom suites. The smallest suite occupies an area of 169 square meters (1,819 square ft), the largest covers 780 square meters (8,396 square ft). It is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The cost of staying in a suite begins at $1,000 per night and increases to over $15,000 per night; the Royal Suite is the most expensive, at $28,000 per night.[12]

Suites feature design details that juxtapose east and west. White Tuscan columns and a spiral staircase covered in marble with a wrought-iron gold leaf railing show influence from classicism and art nouveau. Spa-like bathrooms are accented by mosaic tile patterns on the floors and walls, with Arabian-influenced geometries, which are also found elsewhere in the building.

Restaurants
One of its restaurants, Al Muntaha (Arabic meaning "Highest" or "Ultimate"), is located 200 meters above the Persian Gulf, offering a view of Dubai. It is supported by a full cantilever that extends 27 meters from either side of the mast, and is accessed by a panoramic elevator.

Another restaurant, the Al Mahara (Arabic "The Oyster"), which is accessed via a simulated submarine voyage, features a large seawater aquarium, holding roughly 35,000 cubic feet (over one million liters) of water. The tank, made of acrylic glass in order to reduce the magnification effect, is about 18 cm (7.5 inches) thick. The restaurant was also voted among the top ten best restaurants of the world by Condé Nast Traveler. They have recently hired acclaimed chef Kevin McLaughlin.

Reviews by architecture critics
Burj Al Arab during sunsetThe Burj Al Arab has attracted criticism as well as praise, described as "a contradiction of sorts, considering how well-designed and impressive the construction ultimately proves to be."[13] The contradiction here seems to be related to the hotel’s extreme opulence. "This extraordinary investment in state-of-the-art construction technology stretches the limits of the ambitious urban imagination in an exercise that is largely due to the power of excessive wealth." Another critic includes the city of Dubai as well: "both the hotel and the city, after all, are monuments to the triumph of money over practicality. Both elevate style over substance."[13] Yet another: "Emulating the quality of palatial interiors, in an expression of wealth for the mainstream, a theater of opulence is created in Burj Al Arab … The result is a baroque effect".[13] Sam Wollaston writing in The Guardian described the Burj as "...fabulous, hideous, and the very pinnacle of tackiness - like Vegas after a serious, no-expense-spared, sheik-over".