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Tue 16 Jul 2019 01:46 PM

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Where are they now? Dubai's moving statue

The proposal was developed by Swedish architects as a new focus point for Zaabeel Park

Where are they now? Dubai's moving statue
Al-Hakawati, meaning storyteller, was designed as a huge statue – around 10 storeys tall – of a man standing upright and the plan was that it would move its limbs and words would come out of its mouth. It was to be located in Zabeel Park and the designs were unveiled in 2009. Image by Visiondivision

As part of our new summer series, we will be looking back at some of the most colourful and extraordinary proposals pitched in Dubai and the wider region and investigating what happened to them.

Earlier in the week, we looked at plans for an underwater tennis stadium pitched by a Polish architect, while yesterday we looked at plans drawn up as part of a partnership between a German firm and Hollywood actor Brad Pitt for a series of environmentally-friendly projects across Dubai.

Today, we are looking at a statue project, and not just any ordinary one, but one that included plans for it to move and to have a golden nightclub. 

There are many iconic statues around the world: New York has the Statue of Liberty, Washington D.C has the Lincoln Monument and Rio de Janeiro has the Christ the Redeemer.

Ten years ago, Dubai officials launched a competition for a monument to be built in Zaabeel Park.

One of the popular ones was Al-Hakawati, meaning storyteller. This was to be a huge statue – around 10 storeys tall – of a man standing upright and the plan was that it would move its limbs and words would come out of its mouth.

The proposal was designed by Stockholm-based architecture firm Visiondivision. According to a report in June 2009 by The National newspaper, the statue would be able to "move its arms and hands, tilt its head slightly, open and shut its eyes and mouth". 

Other attractions included in the plans for the statue's structure would be a children's library, various different themed rooms and even a golden nightclub located inside the statue’s head, with views of the Dubai skyline out through the statue's eyes.

According to the architect firm’s plans, the overall aim of the statue was to “add an extra layer to the park environment, making people linger longer in the park, promoting conversations and stimulating the imagination.”

The designers also hoped that “in every part of the Zaabeel park, small speakers are set up so people can gather around them and listen to the statue when he recites stories; perhaps great legends from One thousand and one night, historical anecdotes from the city itself and future speculations, all this performed with an animated body language”.

Attempts by Arabian Business to contact the project's designers in Sweden have so far proved unsuccessful, but according a report we found in The National archives the plans for the moving storytelling statue were replaced by The Dubai Frame, which was opened in January 2018 and attracted over one million visitors in its first year.

Coming up tomorrow: The Dubai Technosphere

Check out the other projects in the series so far:

Dubai’s underwater tennis stadium

Brad Pitt's eco-friendly Dubai projects

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall