Dubai's World Trade Centre in 1986
Photo provided by Torri Higgins
Sheikh Rashid's Idea
There is a suggestion Sheikh Rashid's idea for the Dubai World Trade Centre originated from his USA visit (to watch horse racing) in late 1970s. New York's World Trade Center (The Twin Towers) completed a couple of years prior to his visit and rapidly became New York's symbol. In fact Sheikh Rashid instructed John Harris (Architects) to begin design work on a Dubai World Trade Centre well before New York's World Trade Centre completed construction.
From Village to High Rise
Sheikh Rashid's Majlis discussed building a World Trade Centre. One suggestion was a "village" offering trade exhibitions and fairs. Sheikh Rashid's proposal to build the 39 storey tower block generated a flood of criticism - "Too far from town", "Not commercially viable", "Over ambitious", "An exercise in futility". That criticism came when Sheikh Rashid was also embarking on major projects (Dubai Drydocks, Jebel Ali Port) regarded as risky by influential Dubaians. Land chosen for DWTC was then seen as remote from the city.
Building the DWTC
John Harris (Architects) designed Dubai's World Trade Centre. John Harris recalls his introduction to this project:
I was leaving Dubai and flying back to London. My suitcase had been placed on the new hoist at Dubai’s International Airport and sent down to the loader below. At that moment a hand rested on my shoulder and a voice said, ‘Sheikh Rashid wants to see you.’ I explained about my luggage, but of course my suitcase went one way and I went the other.
John dedicated the next seven years to completing the project. Abu Dhabi began building a similar tower so a competition for the tallest UAE building began. Dubai's World Trade Centre became the tallest by increasing the number of floors from 36 to 39 then increasing the height of a mast placed on DWTC's top. Bernard Sunley and Son constructed DWTC. When finished DWTC had a plain gray concrete exterior with a patterned surface. Sheikh Rashid was not impressed when he saw it. He wanted DWTC to stand out. He ordered DWTC's exterior to be painted white. This presented a considerable challenge. Materials and methodologies had to be developed to repaint such a large building. Dubai World Trade Centre was formally opened by UK's Queen Elizabeth in 1979. By then DWTC was all white and no longer remote!
Dubai World Trade Centre Apartments
DWTC & Apartments under construction. Photo: Phoenix Electrical Company Limited
Dubai's World Trade Centre was designed as an integrated complex providing both Serviced Apartments and an Hotel. An Exhibition Tent was added later following Sharjah's success with their Expo housed in a purpose built large tent. DWTC needed to be self supporting given its then remote location. DWTC Apartments were the first of their kind in Dubai. These apartments catered for short and long stay tenants. Restaurants, sports facilities and a Club soon turned the DWTC Apartments into a popular self contained community.
World Trade Centre Hilton Hotel
DWTC Hilton Hotel's purpose was to support DWTC's business activity but also became popular with Dubai's Community. It was the first major hotel to offer membership to a well equipped Gymnasium and Fitness Club. As Dubai developed, this low rise hotel was occupying valuable land by early 2000s. A high rise extension to the World Trade Centre Apartments was planned. DWTC Hilton Hotel was demolished in June 2007.