Dubai complex
Dubai complex
Image courtesy ZAS Architects
ZAS Architects Inc., a 50-person firm in Toronto, recently won a commission from Nakheel, one of Dubai’s largest developers, to design a $1.25 billion waterfront complex that will encompass 7.2 million square feet.

Many of the world’s A-list architects have descended upon Dubai, as its desert sands are parted for ever more extravagant developments. But lesser known firms are showing up there as well.

ZAS Architects Inc., a 50-person firm in Toronto, recently won a commission from Nakheel, one of the emirate’s largest developers, to design a $1.25 billion waterfront complex that will encompass 7.2 million square feet. The project, dubbed Marina and Beach Towers, is part of a larger development called Dubai Promenade, which is being constructed on a 55-acre artificial peninsula that was created by dredging up the floor of the Persian Gulf. Nearby are the three manmade islands collectively known as the Palm Triology, another Nakheel project.

Like many developments in the rapidly growing emirate, Dubai Promenade is grand in scale. ZAS’s portion includes five 45- to 60-story condominium towers, all of which sit atop a 2 million-square-foot, multi-level podium. This enormous base will contain high-end shops and restaurants, along with parking for 6,000 cars, explains Paul Stevens, a ZAS senior principal. The Dubai Promenade scheme also calls for six additional buildings, including an office tower and a silver, donut-shaped hotel designed by the international firm, Atkins.

A signature feature of the ZAS towers are exterior walls that lean outward. A concrete core and concrete outrigger beams help create lateral stability, allowing for floor plates that are free of columns or shear walls, says Marek Zawadzski, a ZAS senior design partner who commutes between Toronto and Dubai. “If a purchaser wants to create one apartment that spans an entire floor,” he says, “there are no structural walls or interior columns that stand in their way, which is a great selling feature.”

This is one of several ZAS projects now underway in Dubai. The Canadian firm opened its Dubai office in 2005 and is working on commissions totaling 10 million square feet.

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