Tall Emblem Structure

Client: City of Dubai

Program: Tall Emblem Structure for Dubai

Size: 2,000 sqm

Budget: Withheld upon owner's request

Completion Date: January 30th 2009 competition

Built: Unbuilt

Material: LED fabric, SOLAR fabric, concrete, glass

Architect: Herwig Baumgartner, Scott Uriu

Team: Paul Macherey, Phillip Ramirez,Fernando Olvera, Berenika Boberska, Hyon Woo Scott

Consultant: Buro Happold (structural engineer)

Tall Emblem Structure

The Proposal for the Tall Emblem Structure is intended to become a world class landmark for the city of Dubai creating an iconic destination point for Za’abeel Park in the spirit of other world-renowned structures like the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the St. Louis Arch among others. This unique structure made of fabric and steel is characterized by both its response to its urban and cultural environment, as well as by its formal and structural elegance, that expresses the visionary ambition of its city and Dubai’s leading role in the region.

The morphology and shape of this iconic structure was designed by materializing an ephemeral mirage of color and light that appears to emerge out of the dessert and becomes the new symbol and visual memory of Dubai’s past and a vision of its future. The dynamic steel frame structure gently emerges out of the landscape of Za’abeel Park creating a soft transition between the verticality of the tower and the surrounding landscape. The structure is enclosed with two types of translucent white fabric that provide the visitor with protection from the intense sunlight and the gusty winds whilst enjoying the spectacular views of the city. Besides that the two high tech fabrics go way beyond the function of a protective skin. During the daytime the “solar fabric” creates electricity, utilizing a 3rd generation solar technology that is woven into the fabric. Its flexible nature is able to adhere to the free-form geometry of the project. This system produces sufficient energy for all electricity needs of the building. At night an interactive “LED fabric” will display a choreographed show of colors and light as well as projections of large scale images. The Photonic Fabric integrates flexible arrays of multicolored LED’s into the weave, allowing the fabric to give off light and display programmable patterns and images without compromising the integrity and strength of the fabric.
This provides a unique opportunity for commissioning of local and international media artists, especially whose work comments on the visual memory and future scenarios of the city of Dubai.

Urban concept -The 170m tall tower is located in the south quarter of Dubai’s Za’abeel Park on the corner of 6th and 21st street. The position and design of the tower is such that it embraces the scenic character and its visual relationship to the different cultural and business centers of Dubai. This connection is achieved through a series of vertically stacked viewing platforms. Each platform frames a specific aspect of the cityscape and embraces the vertical journey to the top of the tower as an experience that highlights the vast development of Dubai and its way into the 21st century. The tower can be seen from many points in the city, such as from Sheikh Zayed Road and from the airport along Al Ittihad road. Besides its visual significance to the skyline of Dubai the tower is creating an important destination point for Za’abeel Park that will become an integral part of the park and an important tourist destination promoting its recreational, cultural and scientific activities.


The Podium

The Podium at the base of the tower is designed to create a gentle transition between the verticality of the Tall Emblem Structure and the surrounding landscape. The dynamic structure of the tower merges into the ground plane creating a central space, a children’s library and a conference center. The main lobby is directly accessible from the parks pathway along the lakeside. A second entrance at the upper lobby level is connected to the main park gate through a gently sloped ramp. Two 8 person elevators and a grand stair case connect the lobby space with the two intermediate viewing platforms and the café and viewing platform at the top of the tower. The lobby also includes a ticket booth, a gift shop, visitor restrooms and other support spaces. Both, conference center and the children’s library are directly accessible from the main lobby. The Conference Center is divided into three different conference rooms that can seat a total of over 100 people and can be configured in a variety of ways to allow maximum flexibility for different types of events from tourism presentations to scientific and business conferences. The conference rooms are designed with state of the art audiovisual presentation equipment and to accommodate large crowds as well as smaller groups. All conference rooms including the conference lobby space have a direct access to the park. The Children’s library- Is located south of the main lobby space and also has a direct access from the park including shaded outdoor play areas for the children.

Café and Viewing Platforms

There are two mid-level viewing platforms located between the Podium at the ground floor and the café on level +150 meter above the ground. The platforms are designed as shaded outdoor spaces. The spectacular geometry of the fabric structure protects the visitor from the intense sunlight and at the same time frames and reveals vistas to the Dubai Creek, the Cultural Village, Dubai Festival city, the Lagoons, the Business Bay and the Dubai international financial center as well as to Dubai Maritime city. Each viewing platform is equipped with a mobile bar to provide visitors with refreshments and also can be rented out for private events and weddings.
The Café at the top of the tower offers a stunning outlook over the city framing Sheikh Zayed Road and all its surrounding development. The café expands into a breathtaking spiral shaped outdoor viewing platform offering its visitor a 360 degree view of the city.


The complex shape of the exterior skin is formed by one of two primary structural systems that support the Tall Emblem tower. An exterior steel frame is formed by a family of interconnected Vierendeel space trusses, transitioning and branching to form the overall shape. At upper levels, wind loads are resisted primarily through flexure of these trusses. Forces are collected at intersections and then split toward the base, providing stability through their separation and resistance by axial compression/tension. Inside this exoskeleton, the second primary structural system – a slender, braced steel tube – frames the lift and stair core. Diagonal bracing provides the stiffest and most efficient framing configuration for its narrow cross-section. This ‘stem’ is further braced along its length where it intersects the exterior frame, providing internal stability and redundancy.

Although the steel frame provides adequate strength and stiffness, its light weight and complex shape make it very sensitive to wind-induced vibrations and sway. Supplemental damping is used to mitigate these effects, and is a critical piece in the overall system performance. A tuned-mass damper (TMD) provides strategically placed mass, changing the primary frequencies of the structure. By shifting its natural frequency away from frequencies present in local wind events, the structure isn’t free to vibrate in the same way and overall sway and vibration are significantly reduced. Viscous dampers at platforms help to eliminate local vibrations caused by wind passing over and through the folded skin. Acting together, the TMD and viscous dampers provide a high level of occupant comfort and structural performance.


Low latitudes and sunny climate of Dubai provide an excellent opportunity for solar energy. However, these also present challenging environmental demands that increasingly require innovative technologies to provide sustainable solutions. For the Tall Emblem structure an appropriate mix of active and passive strategies can be combined, providing a balance between both energy demand and climate performance.

The exterior skin of the tower consists of two characteristic materials: one a low-energy threaded LED fabric, and the other a thin film photo-voltaic fabric. Although an emerging technology, thin film PV already exhibits several advantages over first-generation PV including broad spectrum adsorption and consistent efficiency across a wide range of exposure angles. When skinned over the curved surfaces of the outer envelope, relatively steady power outputs in the range of 10-20 kWh/m2 can be used to subsidize operating power loads and offset LED demand.

From a passive standpoint, the lightweight fabric skin and open envelope provide both internal shading and natural ventilation. The twisting exterior geometry shades both the core and platforms, reducing solar gains while allowing indirect lighting. Unconditioned platforms receive steady breezes during daily operation and retain comfortable circulation, even during Shamal wind events.