Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

Dubai's flying gorilla and tiger: the story behind why the sculptures were spotted in the air

Videos of the statues being lifted by helicopter went viral when they were spotted by eagle-eyed Dubai Marina residents

On Sunday, Dubai Marina residents peeking outside their windows were greeted with a rather unusual sight – a helicopter carrying giant sculptures of a gorilla and a tiger. The scene, which has been dubbed an “only in Dubai” moment, has evoked quite a bit of laughter and incredulous social media posts.

Those wondering where the animals were flying to now have an answer. The tiger and gorilla are happy residents of the new Wane by SoMiya pool club and lounge at the Address Dubai Marina.

The rooftop space has an “urban jungle” theme so the animals should feel right at home. The gorilla, which has been named Kong, has been placed in such a way that guests can take a selfie or two with it. The sculpture is symbolic of Le Kong, a new French-Mediterranean restaurant enhanced with Japanese touches that will open by the pool at the end of October.

Meanwhile, the golden tiger has been placed on the edge of the infinity pool to accentuate the views – and your Instagram pictures. The latter’s placement has been done in such a way that it looks like the animal is treading water.

“The artistic installations by the commissioned artist Idriss B were chosen for their modern age creativity and edginess, in line with the essence of our venue. We wanted these unique sculptures to bring our new rooftop to life as an urban jungle in the city,” says Yoann Grillet, managing director of Somiya Group.

Getting it there

While the flying sculptures made for many hilarious moments (and memes), transporting them was not quite as simple as it would seem.

The sculptures are made from cast iron and stainless steel, with the tiger featuring an additional gold finish, explaining its weight of a tonne compared to the gorilla's weight of 600 kilograms.

To move the creations from the artist to their “for ever home”, Wane by SoMiya enlisted the help of contracting company We Shape Spaces, which handled the entire process.

At first the company researched getting mobile cranes to move the animals, says Joe Khoury, co-founder and architect at We Shape Spaces. However, when the process got overly complicated and expensive, they decided to go down another route.

We also wanted to do something unique, we wanted people to hear the helicopter and see the animals flying by

Joe Khoury, We Shape Spaces

“The inspiration behind using the helicopters for the animals came from the way the F1 car was lifted to the top of the Burj Al Arab in 2013,” says Khoury. “We did the maths and the cost for getting it there via helicopter was about the same as getting multiple cranes. We also wanted to do something unique, we wanted people to hear the helicopter and see the animals flying by.”

Once the client agreed, the company had to get permission from the relevant authorities. In order to ensure the move went without a hitch, every detail had to be ironed out in advance from wind direction and route taken to having several inspections of the statue by the pilots.

Permission came on Thursday, September 10, and Skydive Dubai was chosen as the pick-up location for the two sculptures.

“From pick-up to landing, everything was smooth and professional," says Khoury. "There were no mistakes and all necessary safety precautions were taken.

Updated: September 15, 2020 11:26 AM

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