Dubai’s Lost Projects

As a change of pace from our usual Top Ten World Architecture series, we thought we’d celebrate the schemes that have fallen victim to the Credit Crunch and have either been put on hold or cancelled completely - and where better than Dubai, one of the fastest expanding cities in the world and home to the current tallest building in the world. Sadly, Dubai wasn’t immune to the worldwide recession, with the government at one stage having to rely on bailouts from Abu Dhabi to avoid defaulting on loans, and many of its more extreme projects were shelved due to financial restraints and lack of investment. We take a look at the best - and strangest - projects that are currently on hold or sadly may never be.

1. Iris Crystal Tower
Iris Crystal Tower
The Iris Crystal - Left render from Iris; central and right render from Aedas

Featuring a sinuous twist to a luxury commercial tower, The Iris Crystal was designed by Aedas as an eye-catching structure that took inspiration from its location at the head of an artificial bay and based its form on cascading water. The striking double skin exterior, made up of an inner façade of glazing protected by an outer solar screen, reminiscent of Arabic sun screens, was designed to protect the tower from solar gain. The tower was to be built in the Business Bay section of Dubai – a brand new ‘city within a city’ concept that was to be developed between 2008 and 2012-15. Many projects in this area have suffered from financial difficulties of some sort, and the Iris Crystal is no exception. Despite selling 60% of the available let space by June 2008, the tower has suffered massive delays, with no superstructure in place as yet and no official announcement as to when construction will begin again. 09 more after the break...

2. Hydropolis
Hydropolis
Left: Hydropolis  Centre: Concept Room  Right: Overhead view of Resort and Land Station - Renders from designbuild-network and Impactlab

The premise of Hydropolis – a hotel submerged 20 metres below sea level – may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but a joint venture between German designer Joachim Hauser and financier Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai almost led to underwater living becoming a reality. Visitors would reach the hotel from the land station, taking an underground train to the main resort complex situated just off Jumeira Beach. This complex has been designed with reference to the human nervous system, with restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and suites extending away from the ballroom as a central point, acting as the ‘heart’. The ballroom would not be fully submerged, with the roof retractable to allow open air events to take place – even as the view from the windows shows an underwater scene. Unfortunately, with a price tag of $300 million to construct the 220 suite resort, the project tailed off as the recession hit and has been indefinitely delayed as of 2008.

3. The Lighthouse Tower
The Lighthouse Tower
The Lighthouse Tower - Renders by WS Atkins & Partners

Designed by WS Atkins, who were also behind the Burj Al Arab and the Bahrain World Trade Center, the Lighthouse Tower was designed as an eco-friendly alternative to the usual super-tall skyscrapers shooting up around Dubai. Rather than being one solid tower, the structure is actually made up of two separate towers connected by a series of bridges and sky-gardens and clad in over 4,000 solar panels. It was also planned to attach three wind turbines to the south-facing façade, creating between 700 and 900 megawatt hours of energy. Even the lifts were designed in such a way that a lift heading downwards would create 30% of the energy required for a simultaneously ascending lift. Overall, the designers planned to reduce energy consumption by 65% and water consumption by 40% compared to a standard skyscraper. The idea of a ‘lighthouse’ therefore is symbolic of the Lighthouse Tower being a new style of tower, lighting the way forward. Sadly, however, despite winning awards for sustainable design, the tower has now been cancelled.

4. Dubai Opera House
Dubai Opera House
Dubai Opera House - Images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects and Designboom

Brainchild of Zaha Hadid, the celebrated Iraqi-British architect, the Dubai Opera House was to be built in the new Lagoons development of Dubai. The development, which would have spanned over seven interlinking artificial islands and included residential and commercial developments along with hotels, a museum, a marina and the Opera House, was estimated to cost around $25 billion, but construction was delayed in 2008 and subsequently suspended. This obviously impacted on the development of the Opera House, unfortunately leading to its cancellation. Had the project survived, the project would have included a 2,500 seat opera house, an 800 seat playhouse, an art gallery, performing arts school, two libraries, an outdoor theatre and a luxury 6 star hotel. The structure was designed to emulate the gentle peaks and troughs of sand dunes, with a graceful timelessness that sets it apart from many of the standard commercial towers that have already been built in Dubai.

5. The Pad
The Pad
The Pad - Renders by James Law Cybertecture

Possibly the first building to be inspired by a global corporation, the Pad derived its unusual look from the iPod, imitating the look of the iconic mp3 player resting in a docking station. Designed by James Law, an architect specializing in cybertecture, the 230 residential apartments were to feature futuristic technology to appeal to a young, urban generation. Planned facilities included iHealth (technology to measure your weight, blood pressure and temperature in your bathroom), iAmbience (lighting that changes to indicate that you’ve received email, phone calls and text messages), iReality (panoramas from other parts of the world projected onto windows) and iArt (a server that you can subscribe to and update the artwork in your apartment). The complex would also include spa, gym, swimming pool, oxygen bar, nightclub, running track and barbeque and gathering areas. Rooms were projected to cost from US$343,688 for a studio apartment to US$901,158 for a two bedroom apartment, and more than 90% of the apartments were pre-sold. However, construction of The Pad has hit delays after a promising start, and the project is currently on hold with no news as to when the development might begin to develop momentum again.

6. Burj Al Alam
Burj Al Alam
Burj Al Alam - Renders by Fortune Group

The Burj Al Alam was to be one of the world’s tallest buildings until its construction was put on hold shortly after piling works to the foundations was completed due to delays in payments from investors. At a proposed 510 metres high, it would be taller than the famous Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, but renders show it to be a delicate, intricate design with a slender, hyperboloid tower topped with a crown resembling a crystal flower. As a mixed-use tower, 74 floors would be dedicated to office space and the top 27 floors would be residential and luxury hotel accommodation. Within the six storey crown there would be a luxury Turkish bath, sky garden and private club facilities, and there would be retail units situated in the base of the tower. Construction began in 2006, but the tower is still suffering from heavy delays and may be on hold for the foreseeable future.

7. Anara Tower
Anara Tower
The Anara Tower - Renders by Atkins Design Studio

Don’t be fooled by its appearance – the Anara Tower wasn’t a wind turbine but, more surprisingly, it didn’t even contain a wind turbine anywhere in its design. The turbine-style glazed pod at the very top of the tower was, in fact, a luxury restaurant designed to give the best of panoramic views from around 600 metres in the air. The shape of the tower was also designed in such a way that 60% of the building had panoramic ocean views, as well as having two multi-purpose sports courts, food and retail areas, a swimming pool and four sky gardens providing green outdoor space for residents.

Influenced by the iconic shape of minarets, Atkins Design Studio sought a recognisable shape for both local and international visitors, deciding on the wind turbine design. Not only did the design showcase the tower’s eco-credentials (maximising water and energy efficiency in addition to complying with LEED certification requirements), but it had also been designed with the future in mind, with the rear elevation allowing for future expansion of the building through four connecting sky bridges. Unfortunately the tower design wasn’t completely ‘future-proofed’, and was cancelled in 2009.

8. Road and Transport Authority Headquarters
Road and Transport Authority Headquarters
The RTA Headquarters - Centre: interior render from Design Design LLC; Left and right: renders of opposing elevations by Zwarts and Jansma

Planned to be built in the middle of an artificial lake, the new Road and Transport Authority Headquarters would have been an eye-catching addition to Dubai’s skyline. Created by the Dutch firm Zwarts and Jansma Architects and influenced by the shape of the RTA logo, the structure featured two 20 storey high electronic screens that would have displayed traffic data to the surrounding area. The surface of the manmade lake was to come alive in office hours, swirling and rippling to make a kinetic water show, but at night it would have been calm and serene, reflecting the sky and the building in a ‘water mirror’ effect and making the structure appear to float above the water. The architects were especially interested in the intersection of waterways, subways and highways in reflecting the core work of the Road and Transport Authority.

The unusual exterior, described as a ‘glass crystal with Venetian blinds’, would have been created through the use of sun breaks to reduce reflection and solar gain, saving 20% of the energy usually used to cool the interior. The gridded nature of the façade and its unusual angles would also have made the structure appear different from different angles due to light refraction. Unfortunately, the project has now been cancelled.

9. Trump International Hotel and Tower
Trump International Hotel and Tower
The Trump International Hotel & Tower - Left: Original design; Centre & right: Revised design – All renders by WS Atkins.

Set to be the centrepiece of the famous Palm Jumeirah Islands in Dubai, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Dubai underwent several incarnations before deciding on the imposing modernist split tower structure that was set to be completed by 2009. The original design was a tulip-inspired structure with four golden petals sheathing a central circular tower, but later redesigns focused on a split tower that linked at the top, with a monorail and station situated in the open core between the two tower shafts. Positioned in the ‘trunk’ of the Palm Islands, the tower would have acted as a gateway-like structure to the rest of the resort.

As a partnership between local developers Nakheel and the Trump Organisation, the project foundered as a result of the global recession, along with several other Nakheel projects. After being put on hold indefinitely in 2009, the project was finally cancelled in early 2011.

10. Dynamic Tower
Dynamic Tower
The Dynamic Tower - Left: Differing shapes of the Tower; Right: The mechanics of the Tower – All renders by Dynamic Architecture

The Dynamic Tower is a fairly radical idea, even for the architectural excesses of Dubai – a 420 metre high tower where each floor revolves independently at a maximum rate of 6 metres per minute, or one revolution every 90 minutes. The movement would result in a tower with a constantly evolving shape and appearance. In addition, it would be the world’s first prefabricated skyscraper, with over 90% of the tower manufactured in a factory and shipped to site, where it would be assembled in two-thirds of the time of a normal skyscraper. The only true construction work on site would be the building of the core, which would contain services and supply each floor with clean water based on the technology used for in-flight refuelling of aircraft. Each apartment would be a pre-built ‘module’ that would come preinstalled with kitchen and bathroom suites.

Despite the size and scale of the project, the tower would be self-powered through the use of renewable energy. Solar panels fixed to the roof and top of each floor and wind turbines situated between each floor will provide enough electricity to power another five similar-sized towers as well as meet the needs of the Dynamic Tower.

The project has, however, been controversial for more than just the design. The architect, David Fisher, has never built a skyscraper before, and has distributed a biography that claims he has an honorary doctorate from an institution that does not exist. He has also failed to state where the tower would be built as he ‘wanted to keep it a surprise’. Due to delays in acquiring land and issues with patents, as well as financial funding problems due to the global recession, construction has not yet started on the project, despite announcements in 2008 that completion would occur in 2010.

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