The World, The Universe
On 20 January 2008 Nakheel presented The Universe, “a reclaimed island development which draws its inspiration from the wonders of the solar system, with islands in the shape of the sun, the moon and the planets.”
Concept cars are meant to test and prepare the market for future ideas. Nakheel, the state-owned mega-developer from Dubai, applies the same tactic in their city planning, or better: sea planning. If you like it, it will get build.
Nakheel emphasizes that it is a conceptual design that will be reworked by engineering, feasibility and environmental studies. So what can we say about it? When looking at the scheme it struck me that its design is an infill operation: there is space between The World and Palm Jumeirah and Deira that can be filled with more islands. Let’s do it!
To confront the very round form of Palm Jumeirah a very round island agglomeration in the form of the sun is projected. On the strip of sea between The World and the coast a meandering line is drawn, surrounded with planets. And Palm Deira is faced by an abstract representation of the circular (here oval) solar system itself.
Conceptually The World is by far the most original and sophisticated part of the land-making program in Dubai. The proposal for The Universe after that not only disappoints by its lack of centrality, precision and originality, but it even hurts to see The World get spoiled like this.
The dilemma is understandable. After three palms, and the world, what to do next? Someone says: ‘The sky is the limit’. Then someone else says: ‘We’re reaching for the stars.’ And what’s next after the Universe? The unknown future? Or, more likely, the past!
The infill-design of The Universe also points to another, more prominent problem: how can one urbanize the sea in a beautiful, economic and environmental way? To put it another way: How does a tapestry of vacation islands work, when in 2050 The Universe part IV has been finished? Are for instance boat-highways needed to avoid boat-traffic-jams? Are continuous ‘rivers’ through the islands needed to refresh the water in the area?
From a classic urban planning point of view an interesting alternative for The Universe could be to propose on the sea strip before Dubai an actual sea-grid in which individual squares of sea could be sold to developers. Like Manhattan every square could be designed differently, with the space in between to function as traffic and water flow corridors. Individual archipelago’s could be designed by Zaha Hadid (flowing forms), OMA (pixels), Herzog & de Meuron (pattern), David Chipperfield (rectangular lines), UN Studio (blob-box), MVRDV (stacked islands), Frank Gehry (school of fish), Daniel Libeskind (designed messiness), SANAA (perfectly round islands), and so on.
That would be something!
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: Cloud