End Credits for Abu Dhabi’s El Dorado Cinema

End credits for Abu Dhabi’s El Dorado Cinema this week, a sad closing for the capital’s oldest indoor cinema and its wonderful neon signs.

While I wish I had been inside, I paid my respects this past week, and was saddened and alarmed to see workers already taking down the neon sign facing Electra Street.

el dorado closing

The El Dorado Cinema’s neon sign facing Electra Street being removed in November 2017.  / Steve Baron

Though the site dates to the 1960s, the current cinema was built in 1985. Founded by Jerusalem-born Jordanian Ferdinand Lama and the Beiruti Atef Karam, El Dorado originally screened English and Arabic films, and later switched to Bollywood, according to a fantastic article in The National.

What is to become of the cinema is up in the air. The most frequent re-use for cinemas in the United States are mega-churches, but converting into a house of worship is not feasible here in Abu Dhabi. It seems like a challenge to tear down the cinema, and as it’s wedged between two towers.


NYU Abu Dhabi’s Stunning Urbanist Saadiyat Island Campus

The National has wonderful pieces today on the new NYU Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island campusstunningly urbanist, and designed by New Yorks’ Rafael Viñoly Architects.

While I’ll miss the Down Town Campus, whose site on the Old Fish Market seemed more aligned to NYU New York’s goal of being “in and of the city”, the Saadiyat Island campus is open and quad-like to encourage cross-discipline interaction.

It’s also sized to scale up – totaling 4.7 million square feet (!), and hosting a 21st-century IT network infrastructure to support Connected Learning.

Earliest Sketch of Abu Dhabi Includes Watchtowers

Cool to see the earliest-known map of Abu Dhabi — discovered in London’s National Maritime Museum! The map, which dates from 1859 and was sketched by Lt. RW Wish in the East India Company’s Indian Navy, shows watchtowers, which I’ve heard were across Abu Dhabi Island and Saadiyat Island, rather than just at Al Maqtaa Fort.

How and when were those additional towers destroyed?

Sketch titled ‘Aboothubbi’ by R W Whish 145 years ago.

Sketch titled ‘Aboothubbi’ by R W Whish 145 years ago. Courtesy National Maritime Museum via The National

“We know that the mid-19th century was a very turbulent time for the Baniyas and this image shows that Abu Dhabi was larger and better protected than we may have considered. This sketch documents not just Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a pearling centre in the Gulf but as a player on the world stage.” -Eric Langham, Co-Founder, Barker Langham.

Behind-the-Scenes at Abu Dhabi’s Hyatt Capital Gate

How can Abu Dhabi’s stunning new ADNEC-funded Hyatt Capital Gate lean at 18 degrees — more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It’s not magic — it’s just amazing architecture and engineering.

We were treated to a special behind-the-scenes tour of the building thanks to the AIA’s Middle East chapter, and led by RMJM lead architect Jeff Schofield. (More multimedia coming in a few weeks.)

The most important aspect is the straight core, which allows for every floor and room to be slightly different as the building curves. It also helps for the back-end work of say, elevators to use in case of fire, which would’ve gone slack if the core had been diagonal.

Incredibly, there’s also a small infinity pool with breathtaking views of the island palaces, and even a helipad on the roof of the 35-story building. The sampling of the 5-star hotel’s 189 rooms are similar stunning. (There’s also office space.)

The roughly 30 attendees also got to see the “guts” of the building — the complex HVAC systems, the struts holding up the pool, and inside the clear glass “skin” of the building.

Afterwards we had lunch at the swank 18 Degrees restaurant, which had excellent chicken and fish, with great service.`If you’re staying in the city for an exhibition, and can afford it, the Capital Gate is surely one of the top hotels in the city. •

Welcome to URBN Fabric!

Welcome to URBN Fabric! In search of…sustainable urban planning solutions that promote delicate urban fabric in global cities, focusing on Abu Dhabi, New York City and Philadelphia.

This blog, based in Abu Dhabi, examines urban planning, sustainable transportation, architecture and urban design and occasional jazz-like riffs on urban life and pop culture.

Beno Saradzic’s incredible and mesmerizing time-lapse video of Abu Dhabi (above) serves as good introduction for “placing” Abu Dhabi.

How do rapidly urbanizing global cities like Abu Dhabi balance themes such as mobility, sustainability and historic preservation?