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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 May 2018

Dubai's Toyota Building on Sheikh Zayed Road has famous sign removed

The advertising contract between the building's management and Toyota has expired and a popular visual reference point is no more

"Toyota building" on Sheikh Zayed Road without its iconic sign. Reem Mohammed / The National
"Toyota building" on Sheikh Zayed Road without its iconic sign. Reem Mohammed / The National

It is a sign so famous that even a building is named after it.

The red Toyota sign at the top of a Dubai building on the Sheikh Zayed Road has become a landmark for generations of people. So famous is the neon sign that the building has been affectionately named “Toyota Tower”.

But it looks like the block will now need a new name.

The advertisement has been removed in recent weeks because the advertising contact has expired. Only the Damac billboard on the left side that faces motorists as they head north on Sheikh Zayed Road remains.

The 15-story tower is actually called the Nasser Rashid Lootah Building. Abdul Kader, manager at NRL Real Estate, said new billboards showcasing its brands, such as its travel agency, would be erected in the forthcoming weeks.

“The contract expired,” he said. “There will be a new sign soon.”

Toyota confirmed the move, saying they chose not to renew the contract as it is investing in other channels.

Back in the 1970s when it was built, the building was surrounded by nothing but sand and a handful of buildings; however, it has gradually been eclipsed by the dozens of skyscrapers that have sprung up around it.

Outside view of the Toyota building near Defence Roundabout in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National 
Outside view of the Toyota building near Defence Roundabout in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National 

Many photographs of Dubai show a 'then and now' shot of the building with the Toyota sign as a visual reference point for the dizzying growth of the city. The building is reflective of its time, built with small windows and concrete facades to beat the heat. Today it gives away its age by the number of external air conditioning units on the exterior. On the ground floor is a simple gym, flower shop and gents salon.

Most remarkable of all is the fact it has managed to survive this long. In an article by The National on the building in 2012, urbanist Yasser Elsheshtawy reflected on how the building was a part of the city’s history.

"It would be a great loss if it was demolished," Mr Elsheshtawy said at the time. "Because it's so visible, it forms part of the visual heritage of Dubai and its history and development, even though architecturally it's not that exciting. It's a massive concrete block.

"But still, there's a lot of memory associated with the building."

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