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Hotels That Lean?! Capital Gate Looms Over Abu Dhabi

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We live in a daredevil age of architecture. Out of the fog of dreams rise colossal structures that twist, outsize, and undulate to the extreme. Among these freewheeling feats stands the tilting high-rise hotel—and its crowning glory opens this fall.

The silvery spire of Hyatt Capital Gate (doubles from $650) slices the sky above Abu Dhabi’s sultry cityscape at a sharp 18 degree angle—four times greater than Pisa’s slouching bell tower. “There was an opportunity to do something very powerful,” says Chris Jones, principal architect with RMJM, "to create a new gateway to the city."

201109-b-leaningtower-5jpgFor Jones, the record-setting effort was a clever way to fly in the face of constraints. Five years ago, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company challenged the firm and its fleet of engineers to craft a landmark thrilling enough to reel travelers to an historic but overlooked district.

Just one catch. The tower could not exceed the modest height of 36 stories (524 feet), a considerable setback in a land of few limits. The United Arab Emirates—the oil-rich horn tip of the Arabian Peninsula—has transformed from parched desert to a flashy sandbox for the world’s top architects. An hour's drive away, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, stands five times as tall.

So rather than pine to the stars, they craned toward the horizon with bravado. It's not the first attempt—history is endeared with inadvertent cases; the first purposeful skyscaper tilt was designed in 1996 by post-modernist design duo Philip Johnson and John Burgee—but none so severe as this.

201109-b-leaningtower-4jpgCapital Gate is a hollow tower pierced by a lone stair-and-elevator column. This central spine was built with a hair’s-breadth eastward tilt—17 inches misaligned—to offset the tower’s dramatic westward lean. The floors are bound in place by a revolutionary façade: a shimmering web of glass-and-steel panels, nicknamed “the skin” for its ability to perspire hot air.

“There’s something inspiring about buildings you can’t quite understand, visually they don’t compute,” Jones says. “The silhouette on the skyline is so distinctive, so compelling, it demands to be looked at.”

Darren Tobia is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Images courtesy of Hyatt

For more about this exciting trend in hotel design, stay tuned for Carry On's upcoming feature on the Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, in Copenhagen.

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