Exterior Architecture Photography of Capital Gate building by Gerry O’Leary
From the first time I saw the unique shape of the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi, I felt inspired. After seeing the photos I’d taken for the Hyatt hotel, which occupies the building’s upper levels, the architects who designed this iconic building contacted me about a project I couldn’t resist. Here, I share the story behind: “18 Degrees: Capital Gate – Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi: The Ultimate Diagrid”, one of three coffee-table books to feature my images.
The skyline of the United Arab Emirates features several of the world’s most celebrated architectural structures, including three that feature among the Guinness World Records. One is the Burj Al Arab, home to the world’s most expensive cocktail. Another is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower on Earth. The final building, now known as the Andaz Capital Gate, is the farthest man-made leaning building in the world. Pitched at 18 degrees, that’s over four times more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The first photographs of Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
My initial photography assignment regarding the Capital Gate building was with Hyatt, who hired me to showcase the incredible features of their new luxury hotel. Among the collection of images I presented to the client was a photograph taken at dawn which highlighted its organic, flowing shape against the muted colours of the morning as they reflected in the still water of the marina.
In that image, Jeff Schofield, and Pierre Martin Dufresne of U+A architects, who designed the tower, appreciated how I had drawn out the spirit of their construction and extended an invitation to meet at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.
Making plans for an icon
Jeff, Martin, and I shared a dinner during which we discussed their innovative design, my architectural photography, and how the two might be combined to exhibit this new icon of the Middle East to the wider world. By the time we’d finished eating, we’d resolved to create what would be my third coffee-table publication, an image-based book revealing the story of this stunning structure and its alluring character.
It would be a collaboration of both our creative visions celebrating the transformative beauty which can be generated when passion and imagination are able to flow together with true purpose. Once the plan was made, we sealed our agreement with a handshake and a pint of beer.
What was so inspiring about photographing the Capital Gate?
Designed to represent the hull of a ship splitting the waves as it moves, the Capital Gate is one of only a handful of diagrid buildings in the world. Its organic form oozes energy, fluidity, and dynamism as it channels and absorbs the forces acting upon it.
Acres of windows invite natural light deep inside the building where a network of diagonal supports create a sense of strength and drama throughout every level. Outside, the eye-catching tower stands proudly over the low rise sections of the building, which are protected by its shadow, while the steel and glass facade reflects the surrounding sky, allowing the structure to blend sympathetically with its environment.
Publishing and reception
After capturing and compiling the architectural images required by Jeff and Martin, Birkhauser published “18 Degrees: Capital Gate – Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi: The Ultimate Diagrid” in February 2017. While Jeff, Martin, and I all had a great belief in the power of our collected work and the importance and beauty of the building, the success of the book took us all by surprise. It has grown from a passion project between three artists to an item coveted by collectors and enthusiasts all over the world.
Reflecting on privilege and how it is earned
As with all of my publications, being involved with this book was an honour and I will forever be grateful to Jeff and Martin for facilitating the opportunity to create a lasting tribute to our shared work and entrusting me with the responsibility of fulfilling that task.
While it may appear our worlds are functional and business-led, and in many ways they are, I wholeheartedly believe both photography and architecture are, at their heart, creative vocations. I am also acutely aware that opportunities such as this are not the result of luck. I have honed my skills and earned my reputation over years of hard work and dedication. I have applied my art for clients around the world and, while I have enjoyed every minute, it is through diligence, persistence, and perspiration that I have learned how to create the kind of images which are worthy of books such as these, and the buildings which they feature.
Saluting architects and designers
The Andaz Capital Gate is a magnificent building and a work of architectural art. Without the vision of people like Jeff Schofield and Pierre Martin Dufresne at U+A, structures like this would not exist and our world would be poorer for it. I love the work I do, and I am grateful for every project, but the results are always a collaboration between myself and those who conceived and built the subject. Of all the things it might be, this book is a testament to that.
Drop me a message if you have questions about my architecture photography or showcasing your own construction project through amazing imagery, please get in touch.