- Special Pages
By Isabel Ovalle
Two hundred metres above sea level, the rest of the world seems insignificant. Looking at Doha from Gulliver’s eye, it’s easier to appreciate the city and how it grows incessantly. That is why the best balcony to Qatar is the Tornado Tower. With over 50 floors it was designed to the highest specifications and constructed to international safety and security standards.
Located in the West Bay, the Tornado Tower is in the heart of the city centre, just a walk away from malls and other impressive towers that populate the area. The tower houses over 50 different companies in its different floors, with sizes that go from 696 square meters to 2,001. These and other characteristics earned this brick jewel the Best Tall Building award of the Middle East in 2009, courtesy of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).
The unusual shape of the building is the most striking feature of this construction that arrived in the area when there were not as many edifices there. Three years have passed and there are numerous towers that compete in majesty with the Tornado. Nevertheless, this building has something special: an unusual structure that aims to reproduce the towers of wind which form in the desert, a phenomenon that only happens in arid and sandy places like Qatar.
The entrance hall of the tower features a double height lobby with security access barriers that work every day of the week, all day and night, and a media belt broadcasting business news 24/7 as well. Other services include high speed lifts that travel at 7,5 meters per second, approximately 1,700 parking spaces and a helipad which is located on the 51st floor for VIP entry and emergencies. The Tornado also has a gym located in the 29th floor.
The tower is rated by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) criteria by an independent party and offers the latest security systems including card access control and CCTV. There are 16 high-speed ThyssenKrupp lifts and an additional services lift travelling at 3.5 metres a second. Thanks to artist Thomas Emde, the tower offers a spectacular light show every evening. This show can display over 35,000 different light combinations.
Robinson Pourroy is the German architect who designed the building in association with CICO Consultants. In an interview for the CTBUH in 2009, Stuart Allen, from CICO, explained why they decided to go with the tornado idea, “the Middle East doesn’t have tornados, but the wind blows in the desert in towers of up to four feet tall”. This thought was the seed that germinated into this “sophisticated construction in a desert region”.
Given that the client was one of the leading investment companies in Qatar, the building “was designed to stand out”. Aiming for this, several international architectural firms were invited to participate in the contest, “they were looking to enhance the urban environment within Doha, which five years back was fairly basic”.
Allen first established himself in Doha in the late 60´s, when the situation in Qatar was “very basic”. Since then, explained the architect, “everything has evolved; it is almost unbelievable that in such a short space of time the sky line of Doha´s West Bay has become remarkable”.
Frank Zabel, also from the designing team, added that even thought they had big competitors, “the other projects were more standard, while our project had different floor plates, we knew that in this country they wanted something special and the client was aware that the design was unique”.
Allen pointed out that the core of the building is concrete, capable of standing 200 meters on its own; it was the first part to be constructed. The architect also said that “the steel work gave a certain amount of problem because this material is not curved and to get an accurate angle was difficult”.
Cleaning the building on the outside is also a challenge; this is why there is a facade cleaning machine on the roof that is very sophisticated. The lighting system aims to give the edifice a movement sensation with lighting units every two floors.
Three years ago, the Tornado was awarded Best Tall Building of the Middle East by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). These awards recognise projects that have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of tall buildings and the urban environment, and that achieve sustainability at the highest and broadest level. These projects must also exhibit processes and innovations that have added to the profession of design and enhance the cities and the lives of their inhabitants. A signboard outside the tower commemorates the prize.