Dubai 4: Palm Deira
The masterplan for Dubai shows a city that is spun between two poles: On the left, in the southwest Dubai Waterfront and the Palm Jebel-Ali will create a new center for business, living and leisure. On the right, in the northeast, Deira will have expanded into the Gulf with the colossal Palm Deira creating another concentration of business, living and leisure.
These two poles both define areas that are quite bourgeois, middle-class. Dubai Waterfront as an area with a western appeal, Deira as an area with a more Arabian appeal, connecting to the existing city-fabric of Deira. The area in-between will be the exclusive connecting tissue with both skyscrapers and villas. The combination of the two seems contradictory, but in Dubai – and probably the future city – the two have a common logic, that of exclusivity.
The concept of the hotel
The high-rises are not developed because of land-values, but because of aspects like appeal, iconicity, and exclusivity. The concept behind creating the first palm-island and The World is exactly the same. For the towers the ground works as a zero-level: the higher, the better. For the villas the rectangular beach line seems to work as another zero-level: the further away, the better. Nakheel uses the word ‘gated’ when selling Palm Jumeirah, and repeats the word ‘escape’ as the main selling point for The World. Escapism is the new reality.
Scenarios that would take this escapism a step further could include proposals for underwater living, walking neighborhoods, occupation of the desert, floating islands, and hovering enclaves. Except for the floating communities there are however no references yet for such projects, which mostly indicates it is technologically or commercially not viable.
Like I wrote before, it seems like the becoming universal of the concept of the hotel: a vertical slab with the work/living/staying program, a horizontal slab with the leisure, sun, bathing, and entertainment areas. Dubai is a large hotel. You are a guest. One doesn’t want to think about what happens when the guest will no longer behave like a guest.
In comparison to the design for Palm Deira from a year ago the redesigned island is more than a complete makeover; it is something really different. The twenty slender fronds have thickened into nine ‘fingers’ that are no longer connected to a central axis, stem. Instead the fronds are each connected with bridges to the crescent. The road network can be best compared with a ladder. Or a layered cake, if you like.
It has something of a grid. Quite differently than the centrally organized Palm Jumeirah, or the concentrically organized Palm Jebel-Ali. Probably much more efficient too, although quite a lot of bridges are drawn on the rendering. And they are not for free.
Quite funny are the zones of high-rises in the middle of the fronds that suggest a trunk, echoing the central axis that once was designed there. The high-rises seem to have drawn there to try to keep the idea of the palm alive, but somehow look like they are trying to animate a dead corps. As a formal analogy with the other palm-islands it works. But the iconography here has become so abstract that if you ask someone who doesn’t know about the others, he would probably not recognize the image.
At Palm Deira pragmatism is taking over. The dead-ends in the water, that are featured in Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel-Ali, here have been skipped, solving the problem of stinking water that is heated up by the weather, because it can’t go nowhere. At Palm Deira it is only a small step to abandon the idea of the palm altogether. Good chance next year it looks all different.
It is interesting to speculate about other ideas that could be applied here. After a vacation-image (palm), a universal timeless representation (the world), writing on water (poem), and reprinting your logo (logo-islands Palm Jumeirah), what is left to do? Probably the best thing one can do is abandon iconography. Ask Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, or even Greg Lynn to draw some islands. Or ask an artist to do a wild and very hip pattern. Somehow I can’t image a rectangular form applied here… that seems just too retro for Dubai.
Significant and instructive is that Palm Deira since the previous version of the design has gained four very big islands, which are positioned just in front of the mainland, and form an almost seamless continuation from it. An island in the form of a half circle is appointed as the first phase of the whole project. Groundwork has already begun. But the advantage of such a form of the island, is that it could go anywhere from there. Everything is possible.
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