The skyline of Dubai is likely to be adorned with Yahya Jan’s creative work.
He is president and design director of architectural and engineering firm NORR, responsible for some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, including the Infinity and Atlantis Hotels.
Now he is working on his most ambitious project, due for completion in 2023. The Ciel Tower will be home to more than 1,000 hotel rooms and suites and rise more than 1,200 feet (365 meters) above ground.
For the project, Jan was tasked with designing the skyscraper on a triangular plot of land at Dubai Marina with an area of just 2,500 square meters — small for a building of that height.
“It’s a property that’s very compressed. It’s like what you would face in Manhattan or London. The constraints were tremendous, and yet we had to make it work.”
An observation deck that offers 360-degree views of Dubai and iconic landmarks such as the Palm Jumeirah will be built according to the First Group developer. From the restaurant and rooftop pool, visitors will be able to catch a glimpse of the city.
Jan said the project appeals to the senses and is energy efficient, using 25% less energy for air conditioning than typical similar buildings.
“This project is not just about architecture. It’s about architecture and engineering coming together. That’s why I love the project so much. It … is my passion, the convergence of science and art,”
Twelve floors have been completed, but Jan said he remains “extremely involved” in work even this far into the build. “When you design a project as complex as the Ciel, you can never let your guard down, and you can never say it’s over,” he said. “It’s a continuous process.”
Originally from Karachi in Pakistan, Yaya moved to the US when he was 18 on a scholarship and studied structural engineering at Princeton. He then did an MS in architecture. For the next nine years, Jan worked in the US and wasn’t planning to leave until he was offered a job as a senior designer for the Emirates Towers complex.
The 57-year-old architect said he never imagined he would stay in Dubai for so long. “It’s been an amazing 25 years living here,” he said.
As for the Ciel Tower — which is named for the French word for the sky — Jan hopes the building will be considered timeless, just like the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building in New York City.
“The reason I like the fact that it’s called Ciel is that I believe in our own lives the sky is the limit, and that’s the case certainly in my own life. I’ve had a chance to grow, to do things that I didn’t think I would get a chance to do. So it’s been amazing.”