x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Designer reveals inspiration behind boat lift that may be headed for Dubai

Tony Kettle says whale bones on the Scottish coast inspired him.

DUBAI // The British designer of the Falkirk Wheel always hoped it would inspire others to dream big.

"I'm proud the Falkirk Wheel is the world's first and only rotating boat lift – a unique piece of art and engineering," said Tony Kettle, the main project architect.

"I hope it inspires people to believe more is possible and to look beyond the mundane."

The crucial test for the Dubai project will be to secure the body of water and ensure no spillage from the aqueduct.

"The major challenges are undoubtedly the forces involved within a moving object of this scale," Mr Kettle said. "Water has a mind of its own and stability of the caissons [water containers] under wave action and security of the gate design are hugely important.

"Dubai has managed very well to create its new overhead rail line and the aqueduct construction is a similar engineering feat. The real challenge is perhaps more to do with water, management, supply, maintenance, and stopping it escaping from the boat lifts themselves."

At 35 metres high, the Falkirk Wheel is as high as eight double-decker buses, with the steel wheel weighing 1,200 tonnes. Ensuring this heavy structure looked graceful was a test for Mr Kettle.

"The main challenge was to design a beautiful structure that could take 600 tonnes of water and boat up 35m in three minutes without losing water from the aqueduct above," he said. "The solution is a balanced beam with caissons at each end, balancing the load and reducing the energy required to a few kilowatts, the same energy required to boil a few kettles."

The striking image of whale bones inspired the Falkirk design.

"My inspiration came from many sources," Mr Kettle said. "The huge organic whale bones I had seen washed ashore as a child inspired both the aqueduct and wheel form, the scale and curve of ship hulls, the Celtic patterns of Scotland, overlaid by traditional canal lock engineering and the cogs and circular movement of watches."

He set up the Kettle Collective, headquartered in Edinburgh, with a Dubai studio last year and hired internationally renowned architects to handle projects in countries including Europe, the Middle East and Russia.

Although the company is not involved in the elevated canal project, it has other assignments in Dubai.

Mr Kettle was also involved in designing the sprawling Dubai International Convention Centre.

"Geometry and movement are important drivers of my work," he said.