Dubai 10: The Cloud

Atelier Hapsitus - The Cloud, Dubai (Copyright Hapsitus)
Atelier Hapsitus - The Cloud, Dubai (Copyright Hapsitus) (click-2-enlarge)

This series on Dubai somehow ended up being composed out of ‘doubles’ and one ‘triple’. There are the Burj Al Arab and Burj Dubai; the Dubai Towers and Dubai Renaissance; the Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel-Ali and Palm Deira; and finally there are The World and The Cloud.

Where the Burj Al Arab can be regarded as a beginning, the Burj Dubai can rightfully be defined as an end – no building will be higher. And whereas the Dubai Towers are the next step in architectural form, Dubai Renaissance first takes a step back to Modernism, to then move past it all in distinction. The Palm Islands get bigger in each new edition, but also get increasingly pragmatic. Even The World loses some of its promise when you see it being realized. This last post in the series is about that dream that is becoming reality, literally and figuratively. But most of all ‘The Cloud’ summarizes and inverts the extremities of the concept of Dubai.

In a sense ‘The Cloud’ is a hybrid of the skyscraper and the islands. As an island in the air it is like the Burj Dubai has been crossed with The World.

The concept for the hotel, with its vertical slab and horizontal slab, which can be regarded as the Dubai model, in this design has been turned upside down. The horizontal slab has conquered the vertical slab, and has killed it in the process. The horizontal slab is fully programmed with an enormous park and facilities underneath. But all that is left of the vertical slab are a couple of elevator-shafts and a field of stilts that the architect smartly calls ‘the rain.’

The virtue in the iconography is obvious, probably even too obvious. In a city where rain does not fall that often, you just make it. But that does not make it real. In the case of the Palm-islands there is still the connection to functionality (beachfront) and the image of tourism (palm-form). In the case of The Cloud the image is all there is. The ‘rain’ and ‘cloud’ do not represent any more than a boring ‘yeah, it can be made.’

“Within its constantly-changing scenery and infinite growth-scale, Dubai needs a dream expressing its current transient phase. If cities can dream, does Dubai have a dream?” the architect wonders at Dezeen. “It’s a dream in which everyone can participate, the antithesis to Dubai’s exclusive towers,” the Lebanese designer Nadim Karam of Atelier Hapsitus says in an article in the NY Times.

The argument as I understand it then is double-layered:
- In Dubai dreams get build.
- This building IS that dream, and it gets build.

A building that summarizes the Dubai model, the architect suggests. Something like the metaphor of the metaphor, the representation of the representation. You see where I am aiming for. Where the Dubai Renaissance project by OMA is Dubai in optima forma, I feel Atelier Hapsitus has taken it too far.

The slab of Dubai Renaissance is beautifully slender, but no so slender it becomes impractical. On the contrary: the slab is revolutionary organized with its tree-like elevator system. The functionality of the slab enhances its image. That is representation.

When functionality is cut out, it puts an end to representation. All that is left is an empty image.

I have to admit there is also something cleansing about the emptiness of The Cloud. The whiteness of the stilts (shown on the image above) enhances that. There is a space of almost 300 meters high underneath the hovering cloud, and it has no use. No use!

In a way that emptiness is a relief. It remembers me to the totally not-functional hovering rocks Hans Hollein designed for Vienna in the sixties. That architecture was dysfunctional by fullness; here the architecture instead had emptied.

It is a sacral space, but not designed for any religion. Nothing for nothing. And who pays for nothing? Comparable in architecture are the TV or Panorama towers in other cities. But this is like a collision of ten such towers, so probably ten times as expensive. And does one compete with the panorama-floor in the Burj Dubai?

So I expect that The Cloud does not get build. It is like the nothingness and whiteness ‘at the end of the tunnel’ – you don’t want to go there.
In the near future I expect Dubai to ‘thicken’ with more background architecture. The city will probably normalize, get more real. And if the next concept comes along, Eikongraphia will report it instantly. We’ll keep in touch!

Atelier Hapsitus - The Cloud, Dubai (Copyright Hapsitus)
Atelier Hapsitus - The Cloud, Dubai (Copyright Hapsitus)

Related: The Blur Bulding in The Endgame of Minimalism

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

About this entry