The curvaceous Capital Gate skyscraper is an unmistakable feature of the Abu Dhabi skyline. At 525 feet (160 meters) tall, it is one of the tallest buildings in the city. It’s not the height that draws the eye, but the seemingly gravity-defying incline of the 35-story building.
Work began on the Capital Gate in 2007 and was completed in 2011. Unsurprisingly, the architectural firm behind the skyscraper, RMJM Architects, had to get creative to build such a tilted structure.
The building uses what is known as a “pre-cambered” core. Built using 15,000 cubic meters of concrete reinforced with 10,000 tons of steel, the core was created with a slight incline in the opposite direction to the eventual lean of the building. As the building rose, the pre-cambered core was gradually pulled up and compressed into a vertical position, helping to support the skyscraper.
This fight against gravity wouldn’t have gotten very far without the building’s sturdy base. The skyscraper sits on a foundation made from 490 pilings, the largest of which have a diameter of three feet and three inches (one meter). These reach a depth of 89 feet (30 meters) below the ground, providing stability against the gravitational pull created by the incline.
And just how extreme is that incline? Well, the Capital Gate has a whopping 18-degree incline to the west. That’s four times as much as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which these days has an incline of about 3.97 degrees (it used to lean 5.5 degrees in 1990). Capital Gate is now recognized by Guinness as the world’s “farthest manmade leaning building,” a record previously held by the medieval Leaning Tower of Suurhusen (5.19 degrees).
One other notable feature of the building’s exterior is the sculptural stainless steel “splash” that flows down the front of the skyscraper. Near ground level it flows out horizontally, forming a canopy over the hotel’s entrance while also acting as a solar shield to help keep the building cool.