Dubai’s identity is summed up for the world stage by the terra-formed Palms and World Islands reaching out from its shoreline along the Gulf. Initially Sheikh Mohammed’s idea for increasing the amount of valuable waterfront property, these projects have expanded the natural 40 km coastline into almost 2,000 km of beachfront. However spectacular the view of these icons are from space, the experience of them at ground does not fulfill the promise of this endless beachfront; it turns out that it is not necessarily beachfront, with its implications of water-oriented activity, that developers are seeking; rather they are interested only in a view of the water.
Yes, if the view is the principal attraction, developers have not done an adequate job of offering high quality views for residents. On Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s first Palm development, for example, large apartment slabs line the palm’s trunk, blocking any view of the water for the inward facing units. Even along the fronds, the private villa’s view of the narrow waterway between is marred by the immediate presence of their neighbors on the adjacent frond across the way. Even the most expensive sites out at the end of the frond cul-de-sacs look across the lagoon at the circumscribing island, with its hotels and larger developments. There are also limitations on how many more manmade island developments Dubai’s territorial waters can manage. Investors in the World Islands are already voicing their unease with the new development of the Universe, which they argue will interfere with the ocean views they were promised.
KDG enters this situation with a project that aims to maximize the aspect of waterfront living that developers have highlighted—water view. Following the logic of the trend to its natural conclusion, a development providing 100% unobstructed water view for every unit is imagined. Since there are no more areas available within the territorial waters of the gulf to terra-form, the aspiration for such universal water view can be realized only in one location: along the existing natural (pre-terra formed) coastline of the emirate. Thus, in the spirit of Sheikh Mohammed’s original Palm sketch, a single-loaded, twenty-nine story residential slab is proposed to run most of the length of Dubai’s coastline, providing 117,900 units with literally unparalleled views of the Arabian Gulf. Future and existing land developments build up 69 square miles of area in the water, yielding a profit of 83.2 billion dollars. KDG can match this profit with no land reclamation necessary. On the mainland, 83 square miles of land would have to be occupied within the city to match the profit we can achieve. Because all units face the water and the slab is perceptually straight, each unit has a sense of complete isolation from the rest, including its immediately adjacent neighbors. This development will allow the iconic shapes of the Palms and World Islands to be perceived for the first time from earth itself, and in a way that does not compromise the view of the water itself, as it does from ground level in the fronds. Potentially, KDG’s proposal, itself only occupying less than half of a square mile, can free up the land behind the shorefront for public use. The width of the proposed building is determined by pursuing maximum view from interior living spaces, residential and circulatory function, and natural light in each unit.
Paradoxically, the new structure will not actually block any current views of the water, because it will span over the tops of the existing villas presently lining the shore, touching down only on parking garages that fill the remaining void spaces and empty lot along the shore; the views of the existing low-rise construction located behind the proposal is already blocked by the villas on the beachfront. In fact, for those buildings located behind the first rank of waterfront properties, the new structure will actually provide a visible index of the location of the waterfront, previously invisible behind the private development along the beach. Because of the height of the proposed structure, this index will be visible for some distance inland, giving all residents of Dubai a reference line for the presence of the gulf and datum against which to measure their daily travels. In fact, the twenty story inland façade of this project will be animated by a gridded system of half-story, rotating “pixels,” comprising what amounts to a 43 miles long public-service information billboard. These pixels will have a black, photovoltaic side and white, phosphorescent side—allowing each to absorb solar energy during the day that can be used at night to continue the display, courtesy of the emitted phosphorescent light, as well as light the single-loaded corridor behind, without any energy cost.
Venice Biennale (2008) / Dubai Stories
Title: ’Kartun: The View!’
Jones, Partners: Architecture
Figures drawn by
Southern California Institute of Architecture
Southern California Institute of Future Initiatives