Financial bailouts and credit protection from London to New York to Sydney. We have heard about what might be the worst global economic crisis for half a century.
But wait a minute.
In the midst of worldwide stock markets tumbling as if Isaac Newton’s gravitional ideas were in control, three nations in the Middle East are battling all out to build the future world’s tallest skyscrapers. It sounds like a comic book fantasy to me but when I first saw the architects’ plans posted in an online forum, I was stunned for a moment.
Dubai’s state-owned master developer, Nakheel first unveiled their masterpiece in Cityscape 2008, a global real estate exhibition three weeks ago. Days later, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waleed unveiled his $27 billion wonderland to be built near Jeddah’s international airport. Kuwait’s ongoing ‘City of Silk’ project was also reportedly going for the challenge.
Ironically now is the best time for many Western architects.
Against all odds, Dubai is expanding its economy by building more and more before its oil runs out in a few years time. All this comes at a great cost: Dubai’s international borrowings were extremely high, given such tight credit market today.
Statistics showed that Dubai’s oil exports currently account less than 10% of its total revenues, and that tourism, trade and finance were far more important to its growing economy.
No matter how the world thinks about Dubai, Dubai believes in one vision, and it is this vision that inspires this emirate to greater achievements.
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Malaysia City takes a review of some iconic, mind-boggling projects unveiled recently:
1. Three closely bunched inter-connected mega-skyscrapers would shoot in the sky, connected by skybridges and grand arches.
Each tower will be at least 600m/2,000 feet, housing hotels, offices, shops and luxury condominiums. The tallest tower will be at least 850m/2,790 feet making it the second tallest in the world.
The mega-structure would have more than 13 million square feet, making it one of the world’s largest as well as tallest complexes. Besides that, a tower of light would knife into the sky between the buildings. Canal boats would glide underneath. This is One Dubai to be built at the newly proposed US$95 billion Jumeirah Gardens by Dubai-based developer Meraas.
2. One Park Avenue, another mixed-use tower in Jumeirah Gardens that would rise about 600m/2,000 feet, its undulating form evoking Dubai’s heritage of pearl trading. The project would contain more than 4 million square feet of offices, condominiums, apartments and hotel rooms. Excavation has begun.
3. Park Gate, which would consist of six midrise towers arranged in facing pairs, creating a shaded garden space (garden hanging at the top upside-down?) comparable to Middle Eastern markets. The mixed-use project would allow energy from one building to be shared with another. Quoting the developer’s statement, foundation work has begun.
4. Park Gate will further be complimented by Meraas Tower, a mixed-use skyscraper of about 550m/1,800 feet tall, combining hotel space, offices and living units.
5. The Atrium at Madinat Al Arab, Waterfront Dubai will rise as two arching towers, blending together at the 47th level as one to form a sculpted gateway, framing and maximising view to the Gulf and the City. The distinguished design captures the sophisticated essence of the international and dynamic city that is Dubai. Scheduled for completion in 2013, this project is the second by Gold Coast, Australia developer Sunland Group.
[Located on the western shores of Dubai , Waterfront Dubai will transform 1.4 billion square feet of empty desert and sea into an international community – for an estimated population of 1.5 million people – that is twice the size of Hong Kong Island. For more info, click here.]
Crazy? Not just yet.
6. The Anara Tower will stand next to the American University of Dubai, along Sheikh Zayed Road. When completed, the tower will be the third tallest building in the world with about 650m/2,150 feet in height.
The multi-use building will feature offices including the developer, Tameer’s own global headquarters, retail, a 250 room super-luxury hotel, 300 apartments, penthouses and even a major art gallery with a mixture of auctions and exhibitions of some of the world’s great art – something Dubai has lacked.
Anara is topped by a massive circular void with a huge glass pod in the middle aimed at being the ultimate high-rise restaurants in the world. The restaurant is supported by three legs as if they are blades of a wind turbine.
But this is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, already home to numerous man-made wonders such as the artificial palm-shaped islands and the current world’s tallest structure, proclaimed even before it is due for completion next year.
The same developer for the Palm and The World islands three weeks ago made public for an even-taller, mixed-use skyscraper, one that that would rise to a height of more than 1,000m or 1km/3,281 feet — easily taller than two Sears Towers (or equivalently two Petronas Towers in Malaysia), or three Empire State Building stacked on end.
7. Nakheel Harbour & Tower will be the most ambitious urban project ever undertaken. It is a new city within the city of Dubai. The exact site for the proposed project is adjacent to Nakheel’s Discovery Gardens.
The man-made artificial inland harbour will be the first of its kind in the world. The masterpiece of the harbour will be the world’s tallest structure – Nakheel Tower – standing more than 1,000m/3,281 feet (the official planned height is a secret but a leaked report mentioned 1,440m or 4,600 feet above ground), and will be surrounded with another 40 towers ranging in height from 20 floors to 90 floors.
The Nakheel Tower itself is expected to take more than a decade to be built. The single structure is essentially made out of 4 individual towers connected with skybridges at every 25m – an engineering feat! The reason to this is to allow wind to flow through and thus putting a limit to the sway of the supertall tower during windstorms. When completed, it is expected to be home to more than 55,000 people and a work place for more than 45,000 people.
Some staggering facts and figures:
- 4 towers interconnected – bisected glassy retail podium of 100,000 sqm connecting to a canal – projected 228 floors – 14,000 residential apartments – 14 luxury hotels (within a single building) offering 3,500 rooms – 150 high-speed lifts – 2 million m2 of space – the building will experience 5 different microclimatic conditions due to its height – due to the high-speed shuttle lifts one may be able to see the sunset twice from the bottom and again from the top of the building
8. Ziggurat was unveiled at the recent Cityscape Dubai. It is by far the “funkiest” project ever envisioned. Ziggurat is an environmentally sustainable futuristic city housed inside a pyramid. The city will be entirely self-sufficient in energetic terms and supported by a carbon neutral system producing zero carbon dioxide emissions.
The city will employ natural renewable energy resources of solar, wind and steam making it completely self-sustainable. A transport system with vertical and horizontal links connects all parts of the pyramid.
The ginormous pyramid will cover 2.3 square kilometers, will be able to sustain a “community” of up to 1 million and will have plenty of green spaces for recreation and agriculture.
9. Dubai City Tower (aka Dubai Vertical City) is a “visionized” proposal (recent proposal) for a 400-storey skyscraper of 2.4km/1.5 miles in height, almost twice the height of Nakheel Tower mentioned above. No official details are out yet so it remains a mystery.
In the past, there has been some futuristic mile-high proposals such as Tokyo’s X-Seed 4000 and Millenium Tower, but none are as real as the above.
Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is giving Dubai a run for the world’s tallest building title.
10. Kingdom City Tower is a masterminded project of Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. He was quoted as saying he will build the world’s tallest building in the Saudi city of Jeddah. The building will be more than a kilometer high (1,000m/3,281 ft) high and will be part of a larger urban project that will cost 100 billion Saudi riyals (US$26.7 billion).
The tower itself will span 23 million square meters (248 million square feet) and will include luxury homes, hotels and offices.
11. The City of Silk is a US$132 billion urban development located 120km from Kuwait City. It is inspired by the historical trade route of Silk Road between Asia and Europe. The new city is hoped to create a new sustainable metropolis that will be home to an estimated one million people. The project also aims to reduce Kuwait’s dependence on revenues from oil.
The centre-piece of this city will be Burj Mubarak al-Kabir, a 1,001m tall tower, almost 200 metres taller than the Burj Dubai and twice the height of Taipei 101. Its height is a reference to the classic work of Arabic literature, The One Thousand and One Nights.
The architects have said that three blades will be built near the top of the tower, that will carry a mosque, a church and a synagogue to signify the unity of the three monotheistic religions.
The project also includes the contruction of several artificial islands, a 26km highway, Olympic facilities and an education hub.
Closer to home, Shanghai has also announced a new supertall that would succeed the recently completed tallest building in China, the Shanghai World Financial Centre.
12. Shanghai Center is a proposed development adjacent to SWFC and Jin Mao in Pudong district. The tower will host 9 indoor gardens and a public park. Construction is expected to start pretty soon and scheduled to be completed in 2013, unfortunately after the World Expo in 2010.