Guide to Architectural Buildings in Dubai

Dubai’s Buildings: Feats of Architecture Around the City

While other cities can boast a building or two, Dubai has more than a handful of buildings that feature unique, astounding and even record-breaking architecture! 

Be prepared to see the tallest, the grandest and maybe even the weirdest buildings you’ll ever see in your life with these top architectural wonders around Dubai.

Burj Al Arab


Address: Umm Suqeim 3 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Contact details: +971 4 301 7777

Architect Tom Wright of WKK Architects
DeveloperJumeirah Group
ContractorMurray and Roberts
Architectural height321 meters
Total floors56 with 3 below ground

Before Burj Khalifa stole the spotlight as the city’s most popular building, Burj Al Arab was the symbol of Dubai. 

Located on its own island about 280 meters offshore from Jumeirah Beach, the luxury hotel dominates the beachscape with its striking dhow design.

Inspired by the sail of a ship, the hotel’s design honors Dubai’s past as a small fishing village while combining modern features to symbolize its growth and future.

To say that the Burj Al Arab’s design is iconic would be an understatement and it was a huge challenge for the people who put it together.

In fact, one journalist got so overwhelmed witnessing the hotel’s opening that he commented that it should be rated a seven star because a five-star rating wouldn’t be enough.

Since then, Burj Al Arab has been unofficially known as the only “seven-star” hotel in the world because of its design and luxurious brand of service. 

History of Burj Al Arab

The Controversy Behind the Design
Image source: Rethinking the Future

In 1994, Dubai was not as popular as it is today. But Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was committed to put Dubai on the map, and that means building something iconic and unforgettable. 

So, he commissioned British architect Tom Wright of Atkins to design a hotel that would be reason enough for tourists to come flocking to the city.

But he didn’t just want to build a skyscraper in Dubai. He wanted it built on its own island to stand out, which added to the challenge of this project.

Wright came up with the idea of a building in the shape of a traditional dhow’s sail symbolizing Dubai’s rich culture and traditions.

The hotel also featured a helipad on the 59th floor designed by Irish architect Rebecca Gernon adding to its exclusivity.

Construction commenced on 8 July 1994 headed by Canadian Engineer Rick Gregory from the same firm.

Because of its unique structure, construction of the Burj Al Arab involved up to 2,000 workers at its peak and it took five years for the project to be completed. 

The hotel’s interiors were designed by the great Chinese interior designer Khuan Chew of KCA International. 

Architectural Features of Burj Al Arab

Architectural Features of Burj Al Arab
Image source: WKK Architects

Burj Al Arab’s design makes it a true feat of architecture, especially with these awe inspiring features:

  • It’s the third tallest hotel in the world and only 60 meters shorter than New York’s Empire State Building. 
  • The hotel stands on an artificial island that’s connected to the mainland by a curving bridge.
  • Burj Al Arab is built entirely on sand, which is why workers needed to drill 45 meters under the sea to bore 230 40-meter long piles.
  • It took three years for the building’s foundation to be finished, especially since it had to be built low enough to make the hotel look like it was floating on water.
  • The hotel’s layout features two wings positioned in a V-shape to create the effect of a mast that would enclose the 180-meter atrium inside. 
  • The hotel’s interiors were designed after the four elements of the ancient world: earth, fire, water and wind. 
  • Burj Al Arab is covered with over 24,000 square meters of marble and more than 2,000 square meters of gold foil was used throughout the building.
  • Burj Al Arab’s revolving doors at the main entrance were designed as a locking mechanism to prevent hot air from rising and cool air from falling inside the building.
  • The hotel consists of 56 storeys split into two levels with a total floor area of 10,000 square meters. 
  • Burj Al Arab has 199 private suites with the largest covering 780 square meters. Each suite has its own butler service and a team of eight staff members.
  • The Royal Suite is the most expensive room in Burj Al Arab at AED 59,000 per night.

Pro tip:
Burj Al Arab is a private and exclusive hotel. So, the only way you can get inside the hotel is if you book a suite or a reservation at the restaurant.
You can book a 90-minute afternoon tea or an Arabic lunch or dinner at the SkyView Bar.

Burj Khalifa


Address: 1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd. – Downtown Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Contact details: +971 4 888 8888

Architect Adrian Smith and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
EngineerBill Baker
ContractorSamsung C & T
Architectural height828 meters
Total floors154

Dominating every building on the Dubai skyline – and the world for that matter – is the tallest skyscraper man has ever seen.

Burj Khalifa has broken almost every boundary and limitation there is in architecture, and it earned several world records in the process.

It also cemented Dubai’s reputation as a mega city, one that can rival New York and London attracting millions of tourists who want to see this architectural wonder up close.

History of Burj Khalifa

History of Burj Khalifa
Image source: Popular Mechanics

The idea to build Burj Khalifa came out of the government’s decision to diversify its economy to focus more on tourism and less on oil.

The building would become the centerpieces of a massive mixed use development in Downtown Dubai that would consist of nine hotels, 19 residential buildings, a mall and artificial lake.

The building was known as Burj Dubai until it opened in January 2010. It was then renamed to Burj Khalifa after the ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Architectural Features of Burj Khalifa 

Architectural Features of Burj Khalifa
Image source: Anthony Espinosa on Unsplash

Today, the world’s tallest building and tallest freestanding structure has some of the most astounding features you’ll ever find in a structure.  

  • The Y-shaped design of Burj Khalifa was inspired by the Samsung Tower Palace Three in Seoul that Smith also designed.
  • The building also uses the same bundled tube design that Skidmore, Owings and Merrill used on the Willis Tower in Chicago. 
  • The spires of Burj Khalia was inspired by Islamic architecture and it’s made of more than 4,000 tons of structural steel.
  • More than 26,000 reflective glass panels, aluminum and textured stainless steel spandrel panels were used on the building to protect the inside from extreme heat.
  • The building has 57 elevators with a 12-14 capacity per cabin. It holds the record for the elevator with the longest travel distance in the world and tallest service elevator in the world.
  • Burj Khalifa holds the record for the highest number of stories and the highest occupied floor in the world. 
  • Burj Khalifa has an outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor named At The Top. It’s the highest outdoor observation deck in the world at 452 meters high. 
  • The building uses a unique air conditioning system where air is being drawn, cooled and cleaned as it goes to the upper floors. 

Pro tip:
Do more than just look at Burj Khalifa from the outside! Book a ticket to its outdoor observation deck to see the city from up top.

Dubai Frame


Address: Zabeel Park Jogging Track – Za’abeel – Al Kifaf – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Contact details: +971 800 900

Architect Hyder Consulting / Arcadis
DeveloperDubai Municipality
ContractorAl Rostamani Pegel 
Architectural height150 meters

As if Dubai doesn’t have enough astounding buildings in its roster, the Dubai Frame is another showstopper. It’s the largest frame and perhaps the only structure of its kind in the world.

But it’s not just a monument. The Dubai Frame is also a museum and observatory that allows you to see Old Dubai on one side and New Dubai on the other.

History of the Dubai Frame

History of the Dubai Frame
Image source: Peri UAE

With the goal to cement Dubai’s status as a tourist hub in the Middle East, the government organized a contest for a structure that would be “the new face of Dubai.”

More than 926 proposals were sent from around the world and the winner would get the 2009 ThyssenKrupp Elevator International Award.

The design by Fernando Donis of a frame that would encapsulate Dubai from both sides was selected as the winner. He won the AED 36,7329.70 prize for his proposal.

According to Donis, instead of building another skyscraper or record-breaking building, a frame that would be placed in the middle of the city would capture the city’s past, present and future.

The frame would have a void of 150 meters by 105 meters to be big enough to frame Old Dubai on one side and the modern city on the other.

The Controversy Behind the Design

The Controversy Behind the Design
Image source: En La Mira

As brilliant as the idea for the Dubai Frame was, the project encountered controversy before it was even started. 

Five years after the competition, the Dubai Municipality released images of what would be the Dubai Frame. Unfortunately, it was different from what Donis designed except, of course, for the shape and the idea of creating a frame.

This created a controversy, especially since Donis explained that he didn’t sign the contract offered by the Dubai Municipality because of a single clause.

It said that he would have no intellectual rights to the project and wouldn’t be able to claim the structure as part of his practice.

Donis explained that this new contract was a breach of his initial contract after winning the competition where he would be able to keep the copyright to his work. 

The government retaliated saying that Donis didn’t have the licenses for such a project and that the current design is a lot different from his proposal. 

Donis filed a lawsuit at the United State federal court in 2016 against the Dubai Municipality and ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

During this time, the construction of the frame was already underway led by Hyder Consulting and Donis claimed that he didn’t receive a contract or compensation for his design.

The legal battle continued in 2018 when both Donis and the government were in a dispute over the building’s copyright ownership. 

Unfortunately, the case didn’t reach any proper conclusion. 

Architectural Features of the Dubai Frame

Architectural Features of the Dubai Frame
Image source: Artralux

Although it was tainted with controversy, the Dubai Frame project commenced in 2013 and was completed in 2018.

It became the first and largest frame in the world with these astounding architectural features:

  • The frame stands 150 meters high and 95 meters wide. It also follows the “golden rectangle” rule with its side ratios being 1:1:618 symbolizing the ideal structural balance.
  • More than 9,900 cubic meters of reinforced concrete, 2,900 square meters of laminated glass and 2,000 tons of steel were used to build the Dubai Frame.
  • The building was strategically built on Zabeel Park and positioned in a way where it can capture the older parts and modern landmarks of Dubai on both sides.
  • More than 3,000 engineers, architects, laborers and technicians were involved in the project from start to finish.
  • A ring design with the Expo 2020 Dubai logo is placed on the outer facade of the building along with more than 15,000 square meters of gold-colored stainless steel.
  • The building’s upper bridge houses an observation deck with glass-bottomed floors while the lower part of the building houses a museum.
  • The elevator that takes guests to the SkyDeck can travel up to 48 floors within just 75 seconds. 

Pro tip:
If you want to see the Dubai Frame at its best angle, you need to go just before sunset when the light hits the gold frame creating that unmistakable glow.

Museum of the Future


Address: Sheikh Zayed Road – Trade Center 2 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Contact details: +971 800 2071

Architect Shaun Killa of Killa Design
EngineerBuro Happold Engineering Consultancy
ContractorBAM Higgs and Hill

As much as Dubai loves to honor its past, it also loves to pursue the possibilities of the future. And if you know this city, you know that there’s only one way to let the world notice, and that is to build a building that would surely make a headline.

The Museum of the Future can speak for itself. From its torus shape to its beautiful inscriptions, you can instantly tell that this building isn’t your typical museum.

In fact, it’s been named as one of the 14 most beautiful museums in the world by National Geographic

History of Museum of the Future

History of Museum of the Future
Image source: Construction Week

It’s hard to miss the Museum of the Future not only because of its location on Sheikh Zayed road but also because of its striking design.

In 2015, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the Museum of the Future project that was inaugurated a year after at the World Government Summit 2016.

The building, which will be under the Dubai Future Foundation, was planned to be built to offer a place for innovations and technological developments.

The government commissioned architect Shaun Killa who was also part of the team who worked on Burj Al Arab.

Killa explained that the museum consisted of three main elements: the museum, the void and the green hill.

The green hill symbolizes the earth where time and history are rooted. Killa also designed the hill to elevate the building to make it visible against the metro line.

The museum’s torus shape symbolizes humanity’s capability to break the limitations of engineering and construction through creativity and innovation. 

The void in the middle of the structure symbolizes the “unknown” and how we as humans can continue to seek that unknown through relentless innovation. 

Architectural Features of Museum of the Future 

Architectural Features of Museum of the Future
Image source: Time Out Dubai

The Museum of the Future is undoubtedly a feat of engineering and architecture with details that you won’t find in any building around the world.

  • The Museum of the Future has a unique torus shape composed of 1,024 stainless steel composite panels, making it one of the most uniquely shaped buildings in the world. 
  • The most striking feature of this building is its facade that’s covered entirely by Arabic calligraphy that’s designed by Mattar bin Lahej, an Emirati artist.
  • The museum has a 1,800-square meter lobby connecting the north and south bus drop offs and the metro to promote connectivity with the city’s public transport and the museum.
  • The building consists of seven floors, each dedicated to a specific exhibition. The first three floors highlight bioengineering, ecosystems and outer space resource development.
  • The remaining floors of the museum focus on technologies and innovations that address problems in weather, food, health, transportation and energy.
  • The museum has three bullet elevators that can carry up to 35 guests. The museum also has a sculptural spiral staircase that add to its architectural design. 
  • The Museum of the Future is designed to be sustainable. In fact, it achieved the LEED Platinum certification for its green rating in 2023.

Pro tip:
Weekday mornings are the best times to visit the Museum of the Future. There’s less people and you have more time to explore the building and take photos. 

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai


Address: Business Bay – Dubai – United Arab Emirates

Contact details: +971 4 414 0000

Architect Arch Group Consultants 
EngineerBG and E
DeveloperEmirates Group
ContractorMurray and Roberts
Architectural height355.4 meters
Total floors 82

In a city where nothing’s made to be ordinary, you can expect even its hotels to break world records in engineering and architecture.

Standing tall amongst all the skyscrapers in Business Bay is the beautiful JW Marriott Marquis Dubai Hotel, an 82-storey twin tower building, the second tallest hotel in the world.

History of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

History of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Image source: Construction Week

The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai was originally planned to be one stand alone tower on Sheikh Zayed Road.

But the developer needed to change the building’s original design and location because of a creek extension project on Business Bay.

A new 82-storey 395-meter twin tower design was introduced at the Arabian Travel Market, but the height and shape was also changed later.

Both towers were completed in 2012 making the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai the world’s tallest hotel at the time. It kept the record for the next eight years. 

Architectural Features of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

Architectural Features of JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Image source: Multiplex

The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai is not only known for being one of the best luxury hotels in the city but also one of the most stylish.

  • The unique design of the twin towers was inspired by the Arabian date palm, which is a symbol of Arabic culture. 
  • The building’s facade also represents Expressionist architecture because of its irregular shape. 
  • The exterior mirrors the appearance of a date palm trunk with balconies being extruded to create that layered bark illusion. 
  • The facade is made of glass and aluminum covering a total area of 134,000 square meters. 
  • Each tower is composed of two basement levels, a ground floor, six parking levels, floors with suspended balconies and the city’s largest ballroom.
  • Each tower also has its own business center, meeting rooms, food and beverage outlets, a gym, spa and health club, retail spaces and rooftop bars. 
  • The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai has a total of 1,608 rooms with each tower containing 684 rooms and 120 suites. 
  • The hotel has 14 elevators that travel at 6 meters per second. 
  • The hotel is strategically placed in an asymmetric fashion on the seven-storey high podium to make sure that guests can enjoy views of the sea, Business Bay and even Burj Khalifa. 

Pro tip:
If you can’t afford a room at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, you can always book a table at one of the 12 restaurants, bars and lounges in the hotel. It’s best to visit the hotel after the sun sets to appreciate its grand facade as the building is lit up and towering over the Business Bay skyline.