Dubai 2: Palm Jumeirah

Villas, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)
The Palm Jumeirah, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel) (click-2-enlarge)

The realization of the first palm-island is a massive achievement. A grand moment in the history of architecture.

Who could have thought that suburban housing could be monumentalized like this? With a strict symmetrical layout along a linear axis it has something of the French. A sample of Versailles, a sample of the Champs Elysée.

The ‘Arc de Triomphe’ and the ‘Grand Arc’ in Paris at the palm find an equivalent in the projected Trump Hotel on the ‘trunk’, and the Atlantis Hotel on the ‘crescent’. The axis is framed by the two buildings and is in the most literal sense being constructed in the form of a monorail.

The return of architecture
This layout is a dramatic redesign of the (suburban) city. The dominating model for suburban neighborhood is a layout of meandering cul-de-sac streets, which is an unrecognizable derivate of the picturesque English garden. Its main virtue is creating smallness; to create a curving street, is to limit the space one experiences.

The city has ended in this garden paradise. Although, we thought it did. Now here in Dubai the meandering streets have been straightened a bit again to create the ‘fronts’ of a gigantic palm-figure, and hotels and shopping have again become in integral part of the layout of the neighborhood. Where urbanism in the west is slowly dissolving in developer-schemes, here in Dubai it has resurrected from the ashes. This is architecture.

If we try very hard, we can recognize the sublime in the sameness and mess of western suburbia. But we could also admit it all has not become that interesting after all. With the insertion of Land-Art the rulers of Dubai have brilliantly found a new and unprecedented way to reconnect suburban housing with the city and public space, here materialized in a central axis on which the public and semi-public functions have and will condense.

And I know Palm Jumeirah is marketed as a ‘gated’ community, but as far as I know for now the gates have not yet appeared. And with it scale some degree of publicness can not be avoid anyway. 

Vast and vertical
Fascinatingly the most informative perspective on Palm Jumeirah and the other palms is the axonometric view. Not the satellite view. As I see it Dubai combines to separate architectures – one that creates large and monumental figures on the ground, and one that creates high figures against the sky.

For the first there is a need to draw long lines into the ground with infrastructure and even more articulate with or on water. For the second there is a need for extravagantly shaped skyscrapers. The super-horizontal and super-vertical slides into each other, in Dubai.

It is a city where high-rises are placed adjacent to suburban neighborhoods. A hotel is traditionally designed as a vertical slab with a horizontal slab. What if this model is applied to a whole city, creating a colossal tourist resort?

It creates a city that is the most spacious one imaginable in the sense that it is vast and high at the same time. The row of towers in the background of Palm Jumeirah creates a height that is magnificent. When looking out over the sea, the palm-islands create a vastness that is exhilarating. The World is located so far into the Gulf it cannot be seen from the shore.

Living there
With the first palm largely finished we have the change to start a discussion about the results. Looking at the photographs my amazement about the project did not fade; it did however change its character. The achievement is ever more astonishing, the detailing of the plan however is quite disappointing. The dream remains, but reality is slowly poking through.

The first question that pops up: Where is all the green that is shown on the rendering? Where are the trees, and why are the gardens this small? On the ‘fronts’ there are houses, and there is beach… and the space in between is largely occupied with the pool. This is the end of the garden city.

Quite funny are the little boxes that litter the roofs of the villas. I suppose these are the air conditionings. And the flats on the trunk to me look like social housing. But I bet they are quite differently priced.

The supposed excess of icons is non-existent. It is a field of background architecture, punctuated by three strategically placed icons.

The Palm Jumeirah (Copyright Nakheel)
The Palm Jumeirah (Copyright Nakheel) 

The Palm Jumeirah, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)
The Palm Jumeirah, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel) 

Villas, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)
Villas, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel) 

The construction of the Atlantis Hotel (Copyright Nakheel)
The construction of the Atlantis Hotel (Copyright Nakheel)

The construction of the Atlantis Hotel (Copyright Nakheel)
The construction of the Atlantis Hotel (Copyright Nakheel)

Villas, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)
Villas, March 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)

Villas, February 2007 (Copyright Nakheel)
Villas, February 2007 (Copyright Nakheel) 

Shoreline Apartments (Copyright Nakheel)
Shore Apartments (Copyright Nakheel) 

The Golden Mile (Copyright Nakheel)
The Golden Mile (Copyright Nakheel)

The construction of the monorail (Copyright Nakheel)
The construction of the monorail (Copyright Nakheel)

Streetlight with Nakheel-logo (Copyright Nakheel)
Streetlight with Nakheel-logo (Copyright Nakheel)
Dubai 1: The story so far
Dubai 2: Palm Jumeirah
Dubai 3: Palm Jebel-Ali
Dubai 4: Palm Deira
Dubai 5: The World
Dubai 6: Burj Al Arab
Dubai 7: Burj Dubai
Dubai 8: Dubai Towers
Dubai 9: Dubai Renaissance
Dubai 10: The Cloud

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