Burj Al Arab

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Architect + Structural Engineer

Speirs + Major


Award of Distinction, IIDA Awards, 2000
Leisure and Retail

Architecture + Environment

A towering architectural and engineering achievement that rises up from its own man-made island, the 321 metre high Burj al Arab hotel has become the international marketing icon of Dubai.

The trademark 180 metre x 45 metre “sail” forms the canvas for our bold lighting concept, which itself has become an international benchmark for dynamic façade lighting design. Elegant white light flips to colourful sequences of light that reflect the spirit and energy of the 7-star resort.

To begin with, we created a neutral static backdrop. Subtle lighting to the landscape of the island itself creates context, and the exoskeleton and bracing trusses are revealed in elegant crisp white.

Against this, a striking series of colourful light shows generated by computer-controlled luminaires, stroboscopes and moving-head skytrackers become increasingly lively throughout the night. At key moments, the skytrackers project moving beams of light into the sky.

The appearance of the building changes every 15 minutes; with a more dramatic sequence on the half hour, and a longer, slower and more hypnotic show on the hour.

For special occasions, high-power scrolling projectors positioned in an enclosure on the beach throw a 120-metre-high moving image on to the sail. The bridge linking the tower to the mainland is indirectly illuminated on its underside by concealed blue floodlights. Recessed into the bottom of the structure, these shine down on to the water surface, reflecting back a naturally dynamic light pattern created by the action of the waves.

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