x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Proposed bridge makes waves

The sailing community is opposing proposals to build a bridge linking Abu Dhabi to Lulu Island.

A conceptual drawing of the proposed limk between Lulu Island and the capital, which includes a hotel complex, solicited by an unnamed client.
A conceptual drawing of the proposed limk between Lulu Island and the capital, which includes a hotel complex, solicited by an unnamed client.

ABU DHABI // The sailing community is opposing proposals to build a bridge linking Abu Dhabi to Lulu Island that would include a spectacular hotel development, arguing it would prevent taller vessels from passing underneath it. The Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association, which has 100 members and 20 registered yachts, has objected to sketches of the proposed bridge. Members argue that the 15 metres of clearance is not high enough to allow passage for the many luxury sailboats and yachts that come into Abu Dhabi, as most have masts taller than 40 feet. They also say it would interrupt competitions for the Commodore's Cup - a monthly race of private boats around Lulu Island.

Detailed sketches of the proposed Sky Bridge Hotel complex have been posted on architect websites and community forums. Designed by the New York firm Eytan Kaufman Design & Development, the concept features a giant, submarine-shaped glass tube framed by two golden arches. Inside the glass structure, suspended metres above the Gulf, would sit the hotel, a conference centre, shops and recreational facilities. The structure would also incorporate a helipad.

Eytan Kaufman completed the drawings at the request of an interested party in Abu Dhabi, whom he declined to name, but has yet to hear whether they have been approved. "There is no confirmation on what will happen with this yet," he said. "I believe it is still being processed by the people who asked me to do it. I haven't heard a final word on the proposal one way or the other. But it is spectacular and in my view it would be a landmark."

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, which must give approval to every new project in the city, had not received a proposal for the bridge development. In a statement, the council said as things stood, the hotel "is not part of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030. "All projects being developed in the emirate should be in line with its 2030 vision and must be evaluated, reviewed and approved in advance by the council."

Mr Kaufman, who specialises in designing bridges, said he would be able to make changes to the concept fairly easily. But if the hotel becomes a reality, the sailing community believes major alterations would be required. Capt Berend Lens van Rijn, chief race officer of the Abu Dhabi Cruiser Association, said he was informed of the development through a series of e-mails exchanged between members of the club.

"They haven't contacted us about anything, including the preferred height of the bridge," said Mr van Rijn. "One of the single hobbies left in Abu Dhabi is being neglected." Mr Kaufman said he had not envisioned vessels with 40-foot masts passing through that depth of water when he designed the bridge, but called the height "a technicality" that could be changed. "If it is required that the bridge has a bigger height or a span, then it can be done."

Response to the design, received through Mr Kaufman's website, has been mixed. "Some say it is nice and some not," he said. "I hear wonderful things and wonderful reservations so there is something in it. It is controversial, but is something really new." sbhattacharya@thenational.ae