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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tom Wright

British architect, Tom Wright
When we talk about architects and mention the name, Wright, usually the image of Frank Lloyd Wright comes to mind supplemented by his Fallingwater, his Guggenheim Museum, or perhaps Taliesin. However, Frank Lloyd Wright, as important as he may have been in the field of architecture, is dead and gone. Tom Wright is not. Tom Wright is a British architect working out of London who has designed and guided to completion an iconic work of art/architecture ranking with the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, the United Nations, or the Empire State Building. You may never have heard of it but you've probably seen it. I'm talking about Dubai's Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs). The United Arab Emirates wanted a national symbol. Tom Wright gave them one.
Wright's Burj Al Arab, Dubai
Great architecture requires three basic elements, a soaring vision, a refined sense of engineering aesthetics, and finally of course, money. The architect must have developed the first two while the client supplies the third. Moreover, the architect must also be able to sell the first two to a receptive client, which is usually the most difficult part. An architect may design dozens, maybe hundreds, of grand and glorious buildings over the course of a career, but unless he can move those with the money to accept his soaring vision, and trust his engineering skills, they remain little more than drawings filed away in some flat-drawer file cabinet. Burj Al Arab is the result of Tom Wright's success in all three of these critical endeavors. The vision came first, the sales pitch followed, then the engineering, on paper and finally in steel, glass, and concrete.
The Burj Al Arab--not the place to stay if you're on a tight budget.
The Burj Al Arab is a symbol of Dubai's vision of the future. But it's also a hotel inspired by a sailboat, which sits on a manmade island in the Red Sea. Perhaps most important, however, it has put Dubai "on the map." Tom Wright, 57, is the architectural director for WS Atkins, a multi-disciplinary design firm in London. Construction began in 1994. Simply creating the island foundation for the towering 920-foot tall hotel took three years. It was completed in 1999. The interior is just as impressive as the outside with its soaring atrium rising some 590 feet through 28 double-stories. Yet it accommodates only 202 suites. If that sounds modest compared to the size of the building, keep in mind, the smallest suite is 1,820 square feet (roughly the size of an average American home) while the largest is a whopping 8,400 square feet (roughly the size of an average American millionaire's home). The Royal Suite goes for over $18,000 per night. Yet, that makes it only the twelfth most expensive hotel suite in the world.
The awe-inspiring lobby atrium of Wright's Burj Al Arab.


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