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Where the Bridge Has No Name

Dubai, like Las Vegas, is a city of excess in the middle of a desert. But with the ungodly height of the 159-story (and growing) Burj Dubai, the unnatural symmetry of The Palm Jumeirah islands and the unabashed extravagance of the seven-star Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai is so steeped in its own impressiveness, so flush with starchitect projects, it makes even Elvis’s "Bright Light City" seem dim by comparison.

Dubai, like Las Vegas, is a city of excess in the middle of a desert. But with the ungodly height of the 159-story (and growing) Burj Dubai, the unnatural symmetry of The Palm Jumeirah islands and the unabashed extravagance of the seven-star Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai is so steeped in its own impressiveness, so flush with starchitect projects, it makes even Elvis’s “Bright Light City” seem dim by comparison.

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In seaside, oil-rich Dubai, iconic structures are rising faster than builders can bestow titles upon them. Construction of the presently nameless sixth crossing of Dubai Creek (in classic Dubai understatement, the “creek” is an inlet reaching a mile wide in places) will begin in March. Upon its completion in 2012, it will link the Bur Dubai and Deira areas of the city, and at 2,188 feet long and 673 feet tall at its largest span, it will replace the 1,804-foot span of Shanghai’s Lupu as the world’s largest arch bridge.

This project is more than just another landmark in the making for Dubai. It is a grand example of the frenetic pace at which the blooming metropolis in the desert is building infrastructure. Anticipating increased traffic in the area, the sixth crossing will accommodate 20,000 vehicles per hour via its twelve lanes, as well as 23,000 train passengers per hour along the center of the bridge via Dubai Metro’s Green Line. It will also offer nearly 50 feet of clearance below to allow for navigation of even the most luxurious mega-yachts.

When the entire six-phase construction process is finished, Dubai will not only boast the world’s largest arch bridge, but 12 km of new roads and 22 intersections in the surrounding areas. The bridge structure will depend on the creation of an artificial landmass adjacent to Creek Island, the site of a planned cultural complex. Accessible from the bridge, it will feature libraries, museums and architect Zaha Hadid’s much-anticipated opera house. Developments on both ends of the crossing will continue to grow in conjunction with the bridge, including Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Festival City and International City.

The form that follows all this function is no less splendid than any of Dubai’s other architectural undertakings. New York City design firm FXFOWLE International modeled the bridge’s arches to sync with the acoustic wave dynamic of the future Hadid opera house. In addition, FXFOWLE senior partner Sudhir Jambhekar says the architecture takes into account local influences like the rolling sand dunes, the current of the creek and the lunar cycle — making for an elegant, sweeping geometry that is both organic and sleekly modern. With a design concept evocative of its surroundings rather than built on the ruins of them, the sixth crossing may just span the chasm between Dubai’s glut of contemporary flash and the fading natural beauty of an ancient city on the sea.

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