The large space between the Buty Al-Otaiba tower and its neighbor has become a gathering place for pedestrians. Young kids play cricket or tag in the area, while adults mingle and have intermittent chai and cigarette breaks during the day. At night, however, many young men gather in small groups and relax in the area, as its sheer size is ideal for mingling.
Walking into the building via a small staircase, one enters a very white, marbled reception area that leads to the elevators. The doorman’s desk is usually full of stacked newspapers and magazines that he distributes to residents. On the mezzanine floor, one finds large halls that can be rented out for social occasions. In the residential portion of the building, there are only four apartments per floor.
The tower was constructed in 1982, though one cannot ascertain its age by looking at it. The crème color has faded, and there are rain stains all over the façade, but none of these degradations can take away from its obvious beauty. It is easy to estimate the age of the building due to its height; the first wave of mixed-use buildings ranged from five to ten stories, while buildings from the late 1960s to the early 1980s are taller.
The architects of the tower were very succinct in their design and clearly followed functionalist guidelines. The building is very minimalist, yet very practical. The architecture company may have taken inspiration from other buildings in the region, such as John Harris’s World Trade Center (1978) or the Deira Tower (1979), both in Dubai.
It is unfortunate that as Abu Dhabi develops, its older architecture gives way to newer, more post-modern-looking glass buildings. The new skyscrapers that fill the Abu Dhabi skyline might be aesthetically pleasing, but they should not be an excuse for the demolition of older gems such as the Buty Al-Otaiba tower. The beauty in a city lies in its diversity, and Abu Dhabi still has its share of both.