In just a couple of decades, Dubai has transformed itself from a sparse and isolated desert landscape into a stunning, theatrical assemblage of some of the most ambitious architecture in the world. It’s part of the royals’ effort to diversify the economy - with oil reserves now dwindling, turning Dubai into one of the most unique and spectacular urban jungles in the world should help transform the city into a must-see tourist destination. Of course, those mountains of oil money lying around certainly help with the transition.
There seem to be two things that all Dubai construction projects have in common: Whatever it is, it needs to be really expensive, and it needs to be really big. Take the Burj Khalifa. Opened in 2010, the tower smashed the previous record for tallest building in the world, coming in at a colossal 2,716.5 feet. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly double New York City’s Empire State Building, which stands a solid 1,454 feet.
There’s a lot more of that sort of thing on the way. Dubai has dozens of projects on the horizon, all incredibly expensive and mind boggling in their enormity. Though Saudi Arabia is set to steal away the title of world’s tallest building – its Kingdom Tower is set to be built to a height of 3,280 feet – some of Dubai’s works in progress will be setting new records of their own, all with that signature style and glorification of excess for which the city is becoming so famous.
Here are six incredibly expensive and unprecedented construction projects completed or underway in Dubai as of 2014.
6 Dubai Marina ($327 Million +)
Yet another exercise in enormity, Dubai Marina is, to all intents and purposes, a new city within Dubai. Set to be the largest human-made marina in the world, the plans for this area include an artificial body of water, enormous hotels, hundreds of shops and restaurants, and many residential developments. Phase one of the project alone cost 1.2 billion AED - equivalent to almost $326 million USD.
Much of what sets Dubai Marina apart is the area’s design. Deliberately set up to encourage residents to walk around and truly live in the neighbourhood, the Marina is home to a huge public space, estimated to take up about 12% of the total development area. Parks and walkways crisscross the whole of the development, and the celebration of nature in the area distinguishes it from the urban sprawl that is the rest of Dubai.
Development on the site is ongoing, with the area experiencing huge increases in occupancy each year. The area is expected to house approximately 120,000 people when completed.
5 Dynamic Tower ($700 Million)
The only project on this list to never have begun construction, Dynamic Tower is nonetheless the coolest, most quintessentially 'Dubai' project around. It's something that, if realised, would make for an incredible sight.
Originally discussed back in 2008, the project was sidelined during the financial crisis, which disrupted many of the ambitious construction projects in the UAE. Designed by a man with no experience building skyscrapers, the Dynamic Tower would make a full rotation every hour and a half, with the movement of the building powered by wind turbines and solar panels located on the roof.
The company has announced its intention to build similar projects in New York, Moscow, and Paris, though none of these cities have yet broken ground on one of Dynamic’s creations. Despite that, the towers - including the one in Dubai - are all still officially planned to be built.
The most intriguing thing about the idea, though, is that each floor will rotate separately from the others in the building. The Dynamic website says “As each floor rotates separately, the tower never looks the same twice in its lifetime.” The site claims the concept is meant to add a fourth dimension to buildings: Time.
4 The Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing ($817 Million)
Due to be completed in 2015, the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing is set to be the world’s largest spanning arch bridge, covering a distance of about a mile. The bridge will include 12 lanes, as well as rail lines and walkways for pedestrian traffic, and is expected to cost $817 million to complete. An estimated 2,000 vehicles and 23,000 rail passengers will cross every hour.
Not a slave to function, the bridge has more than a few artistic touches to help it stake a claim to uniqueness. In an interview with Mashable, Sudhir Jambhekar - a senior partner at the construction company behind the bridge - said the crossing will have decorative lighting which will use sensors to activate in specific circumstances, such as during a particular phase of the moon. He says the design of the bridge, too, is rooted in art, with the shape of the arch inspired by the sand dunes that are so common to the landscape of the UAE.
3 The Arabian Canal ($11 Billion)
Planned to be the largest canal in the world, the Arabian canal is an $11 billion, 47 mile canal that is meant to bring water from the Arabian Gulf inland, creating new recreational and commercial boating and shipping opportunities for Dubai. The water would flow from Dubai Marina and loop around the Dubai World Central Airport before flowing back out to the waterfront.
Needless to say, there are enormous environmental concerns surrounding the project, which would involve the displacement of 1.1 billion cubic meters of soil, and would create an enormous artificial body of water. Though construction began in 2008 with the completion date set for 2010, the project has been on hold for some time now. The company responsible for the canal, Limitless, says “Work on the Arabian Canal is currently postponed as we continue to review our projects and prioritise our investments to reflect market conditions.”
Should it ever be completed, the project will include numerous waterfront communities along the length of the canal.
2 The World Islands ($14 Billion)
Incredibly expensive, incredibly ambitious, and incredibly poorly thought out, the World Islands are a collection of 300 private artificial islands just off the coast of Dubai. Arranged into an approximation of the world map, the islands cost about $14 billion to make, with individual islands selling anywhere from $7 million-$35 million. It’s worth noting that the aerial views of the islands are absolutely gorgeous.
Unfortunately, the islands themselves, like the similarly expensive palm islands, have been something of an ecological disaster. The construction of the islands has led to numerous adverse environmental effects, clouding the normally clear water with dirt and consequently ruining the ecosystems of many different species.
To add insult to injury, the islands themselves have not been selling, with the vast majority remaining undeveloped to this day. The fact that the islands are also now beginning to suffer from coastline erosion is icing on the cake.
1 Dubailand ($64 Billion)
Move over, Walt. There’s a new king of theme parks. With dozens of theme parks, attractions, and retail offerings, Dubailand is the ambitious attempt by subsidiaries of Dubai Holding – a corporation owned by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – to create the largest theme park destination in the world, coming in at twice the size of Walt Disney World in Florida.
Dubailand is pretty unique in its variety. Among its planned offerings are a Marvel Superheroes theme park, a Universal Studios park, a potential Formula One theme park (though there are conflicting reports as to whether or not this project will reach fruition), and the Sahara Kingdom park, which will feature attractions based on traditional Arabian folk tales.
On the retail side, visitors can expect an enormous outlet mall, as well as restaurants, hotels, athletics facilities, and luxury apartments modelled after the Tuscan architectural style. The Dubailand project will cost a projected $64 billion and is expected to be completely open by 2020.