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Mon 5 Aug 2019 10:41 AM

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Where are they now? Dubai's towering ambitions

Dubai has earned a reputation for pushing the boundaries of architecture and design

Where are they now? Dubai's towering ambitions

Dubai and the wider Gulf region have never shied away from pushing the boundaries of architecture, design and inspiration and while the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 may have seen many of the grand projects launched in the boom era consigned to the drawing board, the imagination of the region’s community of designers has never ceased to amaze.

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s ideas for a series of environmentally-friendly projects, a Swedish firm’s designs for a moving statue, a Chinese team’s ambitions for a technologically advanced neighbourhood in the shape of a globe, a Hong Kong designer’s vision of a heart-shaped water park containing the world’s highest water slide and a former president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia’s dream of a city with towers shaped like a chessboard.

We also showcased plans proposed for an underwater TV studio and a crystal ball-shaped football museum in time for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a tower in Abu Dhabi with a futuristic exterior that changes with the surrounding environment, theme parks inspired by Disney’s classic Herbie movie franchise, the popular blue Belgian comic stars The Smurfs and the Universal Studios franchise, and tower projects partnered with celebrities such as German F1 driver Michael Schumacher, actress Pamela Anderson and English footballer Steven Gerrard.

In the final instalment in the series, we look at some of the really outlandish projects and proposals and those which we were unable to get updates on.

Rotating Towers

Six years ago, it was revealed that Dubai could soon be home to a tower which rotates 360 degrees every 90 minutes. David Fisher, the founder and chairman of Dynamic Architecture Group, first proposed the idea in 2008 but the global financial crisis and the downturn in the Dubai property market led to the ambitious plans being put on hold.

The new plans for the rotating tower, to be named the Dynamic Tower, were to be 80 storeys high and the towers were designed to make a complete 360 degree rotation every 90 minutes.

The Dubai tower was expected to cost in the region of half a billion dollars, according to a report in the Daily Mail newspaper, while the company was also hoping to build versions in Moscow, Paris, London, Milan, Rome, New York and Miami.

The design included nearly 79 giant wind turbines that would be needed to generate electricity to power the rotation of the floors.

Dynamic Architecture did not respond to emails and calls when contacted by Arabian Business for comment on the project.

The Gulf region has had a number of proposed towers that would rotate and twist: Click here for a list of some of the projects.

Burj ‘exo-skeleton’

In 2014 a Dubai-based think tank proposed wrapping the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper in a super lightweight, reflective fabric. Proposed by OP-EN, the EXO-BURJ project would see the casing reflect the building and its surroundings. It would also allow visitors to walk up the encasement.

“In the spirit of exploring creative potential in the public realm, Exo-Burj aims to create a fluid urban ambience by suspending a reflective fabric material around the 828m tower, complementing the structure's reflective facade,” OP-EN wrote.

Ahmed Salman, the founder and principal at OP-EN, told Arabian Business at the time the proposed installation would be a temporary addition to the building and would be suspended off its central spire.

The story garnered a lot of attention and a few days after the story broke the company was forced to admit that “Exo-Burj is not being taken forward by the developer nor has any interest been articulated”. Emaar did not answer emails about the project.

Underwater hotel

The concept of developing an underwater hotel in Dubai has been proposed numerous times but when the Water Discus Hotel project was announced in 2012 it seemed to it could be a possibility as it had the backing of Dubai’s Drydocks World, a subsidiary of government conglomerate Dubai World.

The hotel, which would comprise two saucer-shaped structures, one above the water and one underneath, was expected to cost around €40 million ($44.48 million) to build.

But it has faced two significant setbacks: Swiss firm Big Invest, a key financial backer who had signed a deal with Drydocks World to help finance the project, withdrew its support. Then, Drydocks chairman, who had overseen the previous agreement with Deep Ocean Technology, resigned and was subsequently replaced.

Finally, in July 2015 Deep Ocean Technology said that plans for the hotel had stalled and the company was looking at other potential locations, such as Oman, the Maldives, Australia, the Caribbean and Poland.

Asteroid tower

One of the most truly outlandish projects was one that surfaced just two years ago. A New York-based architectural firm proposed to construct the world’s tallest skyscraper hanging from an asteroid.

The proposal included building a tower in Dubai that would can be placed in an eccentric geosynchronous orbit which would allow it to travel between the northern and southern hemispheres on a daily loop. 

Connected to an asteroid in space, the Analemma Tower would be divided into different parts with the lower-most portion dedicated to offices and commercial spaces, the mid-section will be agricultural and residential areas while the top portion will be for devotional and funerary activities.

In a statement to Arabian Business soon after the design hit the headlines, New York designers Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO) admitted Analemma Tower was a speculative project, which is “impossible to build with today's existing technology” but they believe there will be “a time in the coming decades when it will become technologically feasible”.

Crescent Moon Tower

Over the years, Dubai's ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Award has attracted many impressively colourful and adventurous ideas, but we really like the idea for the Crescent Moon Tower.

This 33 storey tower was proposed to be built in the Zaabeel park area, near the Dubai World Trade Centre and was designed to highlight Dubai’s strong connection to the Islamic world. 

Unveiled about five years ago and expected to take five years to build, we have yet to see any desire or movement to bring this project from the drawing board to the building site.

However, challenging designs have not deterred Dubai before, as the circular shaped Museum of the Future looked unlikely at first but it is now currently taking shape near the Emirates Towers.

We hope you enjoyed this series and let us know if there are any projects from the past you would like Arabian Business to investigate. Contact us with your suggestions at

Check out the other projects in the series:

Dubai’s underwater tennis stadium

Brad Pitt's eco-friendly Dubai projects

Dubai’s moving statue

The Technosphere 

Dubai Heart Water Park Resort

The International Chess City

Underwater World Cup TV studio

Abu Dhabi’s Bionic Tower

The Crystal Ball Museum

The Herbie Theme Park

The Michael Schumacher World Champion Tower

Bahrain’s Smurf Village

Pamela Anderson eco-hotel

Universal Studios Dubailand

The Steven Gerrard Tower

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.