Helix Hotel by Leeser Architecture



New York design firm Leeser Architecture have won a competition to design a hotel in the Zayed Bay district of Abu Dhabi, UAE.


Called the Helix for its spiraling floors, the hotel is located in the bay and sits partially over the water.


The building includes a glass-bottomed swimming pool on the roof, visible eight floors below, and a running track on the fifth floor.


It will be part of a new waterfront development in Abu Dhabi, adjacent to the Sheik Zayed Bridge by Zaha Hadid Architects that is currently under construction.


Here’s some more information from Leeser Architecture:



Iconic design and state of the art technology create dynamic mini-city in the UAE

Leeser Architecture, an internationally recognized design firm, has won an invited competition for a five-star luxury hotel in the Zayed Bay in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Called the Helix Hotel for its staggered floor plates, it rests in the bay, partially floating in the water and adjacent to the serpentine Sheik Zayed Bridge currently under construction by designer Zaha Hadid. With the Helix, Leeser Architecture has devised a new way to consider hotel culture in the Emirates, highlighting elements that are usually unseen, and playfully enlivening those parts that traditionally remain static and mundane.


The commission was the result of an invited competition held by Al Qudra Real Estate in partnership with QP International, both local Abu Dhabi holdings groups with projects featured across the UAE. Zayed Bay will be a comprehensive development built along a new road, and the site will include office buildings as well as condominiums and retail along the water. The Helix is the centerpiece of this new development.


With 208 guest rooms and suites arranged around a helical floor, the hotel immediately dispenses with the idea that visitors must engage in the stale paradigms of rigid hallways and atria that characterize a typical hotel stay. The floor constantly shifts in width and pitch as it rises to the top floor, keeping public spaces always in flux. No two rooms positioned across from each other have exact views to the other side, already pulling the visitor out of the pedestrian and into the hotel’s uniquely urban world. As the helix winds upward, programmatic elements change from lounges and restaurants on the bay, to meeting rooms and conference facilities, to lounges and cafes, to the luxury indoor-outdoor health spa on the fifth floor, to, finally, the upper pool deck on the roof. The running track on the fifth floor represents the only moment when the ramping ceases and a flat surface prevails – a sleight of hand on the architect’s part, and an unexpected luxury that fit vacationers can enjoy in the cooler months.


Conceptually, the Helix Hotel participates in a critical dialogue between opulence and urbanness, between the variety of services offered by a small city and the demands of a five-star hotel guest. The floor suggests the curves a winding street would take through a bustling town, and many programmatic elements are open to views from across the central void. Though the void seems to offer unmitigated visibility, there are enclaves for private meetings and guest privacy. It is designed so that one activity feeds into the next rather than affecting sharp separations between each activity. In this way it develops a feeling of being free to whimsically experience all aspects of the hotel without having to decide on an agenda in advance.


On the luxury side of vacation culture, there are playful elements that make the hotel a designer destination in an iconic setting. From the outset, it is as much a showplace for the abundance of opulent life as it is a fully incorporated urban experience. For example, the building has a functional reverse fountain, which drops water from the ceiling down through the void to the lower lobby. At the entry, valets drive clients’ cars into the car park, which, rather than being predictably above ground or underneath the hotel, is situated instead under the bay. Cars are literally driven into the water.


As guests make their way up to their suites, remarkable views out onto the Zayed Bay become even more dramatic on the upper floors. At the top of the Helix, the rooftop pool deck features a full sized swimming pool with a glass bottom, with the water and swimmers visible from eight floors below at ground level. In the restaurant below the lobby, the bay’s waves are so near to the floor plate that they lap up onto the edge of the restaurant inside of the glass curtain wall. The wall retracts, revealing a sweeping breeze.


While focusing on unique design, Leeser Architecture is also committed to sound sustainability practices and worked with consultant Atelier Ten to determine the best possible conditions and materials for heat and energy conservation. The indoor waterfall allows for the accumulation of heat inside the hotel to be minimal by filtering cool water back up into the system as it falls through the void. In the sub-lobby, a dynamic glass wall is built from the base of the second floor down into the water. The wall acts as a curtain would, opening when the weather is cool enough and closing when it is too hot for exposure to the desert air. Portions of the outside surface are clad in panels made of a new material called GROW, which has both photovoltaic and wind harnessing capabilities.


Consultants on the project include ARUP (structural and mechanical design) and Atelier 10 (environmental and green design).


Posted on Tuesday April 7th 2009 at 8:30 am by Rachel Blunstone. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Wybie


  • jusay


  • sara

    please give me more informaion about this competition

  • Alex

    Amazing – love the views down from the top and the casting aside of stereotypical hotel design

  • Olaf

    Wybie: are you kidding???

  • Vico

    They should rename their firm Lesser Architecture.

    • Apryl

      Why should they?

  • lex

    DEZEEN, why do you put this on your website?

  • titisnurabadi

    white.., i like it..

  • Partick Bateman

    take the guggenheim new york, pass it through zaha hadids designfilter and out pops this toilet-esque building in abu dhabi.

    some nice sustainable concepts, but the building itself looks poor.

  • Jes

    interior n exterior both very interesting!!

  • Looks fun. Good competition entry. but not for real.

  • yimyim

    no plans…?

  • batman

    looks like a mulve design

  • lex

    i don’t like these type of projects.
    abu dhabi decadence, when will it finally stop…

  • Phut

    Hoola Hoop!!


    It’s more of the same, but SPECTACULAR!!!

  • a-haus

    great idea and beautiful spaces, but purely conceptual.
    I don’t really care for the stack of pancakes appearance of the exterior — not as poetic as the interior.

    Dubai is dead.

  • Dave

    I like the form a lot, but I gotta wonder where are the structural elements and the finish material seams? The design is losing me on some of these basic scale items

  • Martin

    Camshaft, porcelain throne or pile of dishes? I can’t decide.

  • Fantastic!
    Incredible white balance with the forms.

  • If the guest rooms are any indication, this will, like the burj al-arab before it, become a place for sightseeing rather than for actual lodging.

  • Joe

    Umm… so far I’ve seen a lot of walkways…. walkways here, walkways there, walkways everywhere. What I don’t see is a little icon “Dr Seuss is here” cuz that would help orient myself. It’s ‘neat’ but it would have to be people willing to pay and then you run the risk of being ‘neat’ for two years until you finally give up on selling those last 3 condos.

  • slater

    I find it funny that there is an exterior running track pictured…is anyone in there right mind going to use it in that heat?!

    Other than that, a nice concept and design, but probably won’t ever break ground.

  • Lite

    lesser achitecture, lol!!

  • two

    Design: 1 hour
    Presentation: 1 day
    Building lives: 30 year

  • SHAY

    This is the worst piece of hack architecture ever. The fact that there is only one mention of the guggenheim is shocking! This is demoralizing to our profession.

    To me the design promotes thought, good and bad. The simple fact is that this “appears” to be a stimulating knock-off of FLW with a couple of floor plate moves here and there. Thomas Leeser seems to be visiting the Guggenheim in NYC often. And what is even more laughable is that the news of this project is posted directly adjacent to the news of Thomas Leeser and his Guggenheim connection.

    Good thought, in as much that clients are seeing new visions for hotels. New concepts that border the theoretical (which may be good or bad). I love the idea of the running track and engaging physical activity with respite and the poolside cabana, outdoor lounge (whatever it may be). To me the explorations of these types of programatic juxtapositions pose more reverent change than the physical form and sexy (maybe even cold) image of the hotel itself.

    Bad, as in;

    “the hotel immediately dispenses with the idea that visitors must
    engage in the stale paradigms of rigid hallways and atria that
    characterize a typical hotel stay” (bullshit)

    How does this guggenheimish sloped pathway and atrium truly differ from these stale paradigms? This seems like it could be a Portman with a sloped corridor floor, no different here. The language seems inconsistent and contradictory to many of the necessary nostalgic elements of a hotel (ie. sequencing).

    Amazed that Leeser can propose this building and idea without being fully embarrassed that he knows, and everyone who knows the guggenheim knows that knowing is half the battle. So before you think you know, Thomas, realize that you don’t, and that people are laughing at you.

  • Martin


  • uhmmm why does it look so similar to Mercedes Benz museum .. even the interior .. interesting!

  • Azm

    I almost jumped @ the idea of a swiming pool at roof with glass bottom!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Kiko

    sooo bmw!

  • Alqamaru

    remember me.. the guggenheim…

  • reg

    there’s a hotel in vegas that has a pool w/ a glass bottom but i think this has a different approach!

  • TK10K

    what is going on here, great piece of architecture and so much bashing, just because something is reminiscent of something else it doesn’t mean that it is a rip off, it’s a reinvention!

  • xavier

    Architecture has a repetetive nature. origins of architecture are seen in all modern buildings, and to criticize one for taking inspiration from an existing structure is plain and simply hypocritical and idiotic–maybe you are a pompous student or a frustrated jealous architect. This architect may have took inspiration from the guggenheim in NY but he has ventured further than it, and it is those ventures and the experimentation of differential elements that are able to advance the field. And while it might have similar qualities as the Guggenheim but its functionality and spatial detailing is rather different.

  • Harry Porte

    It looks and sounds like fresh out of a Iain M. Banks sci-fi master piece.

  • wow …………what a beatiful picture???
    book one room for me ,defenitely i w’ll be coming to that place

  • saddiqi whisky

    waaaaaw!!!!!! bold and beautiful design.

  • abiQ

    simple but modern
    good looking…. but weak contruction

  • How much money did this even cost??????? O.o

  • ok was this really built? possibly a dum question buutt??

  • ramin

    It s astonishing at a glance ,but faddish after a while.

  • ellim

    wanna work at this company! amazing and creative!
    as a student majoring in Architecture, I admire you guys who designed this buiding :)

  • Dec

    not a bad design, needs some work… also has anyone thought how much staying here is going to cost? A few grand A night? it just seems Unnecessary… looks good on paper, lets keep it that way.

  • Not sure why the negetive comments but I quite liked it!

  • Mark

    You’re a genius, whoever you are who designed this wonderful art.

  • Zeditha

    I want to stay in this hotel, it looks awesome!
    But lacking such a luxury, I’ll settle for using the design influence in my Ceramics artwork ;)

  • Ahmed ramy

    Can anyone explain to me how any of the rooms could be accessible while it is on a slope, or is there a ramp connecting all levels to each other?