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The UAE’s Strangest Projects

The city of Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, have undergone one of the most radical transformations in history. Not too long ago, the country was merely a vast desert, but today, it stands tall as a testament to human ingenuity and ambition. It’s home to some of the world’s most iconic destinations, like the world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa, and the world’s tallest hotel, the Ciel Tower.

And it plans to keep adding to this list of impressive structures. In fact, Dubai is currently planning two new megaprojects that will push the boundaries of what we thought was possible.

The Dubai Creek Tower

Dubai Creek Tower

The UAE announced that construction on its famous Dubai Creek Tower will finally resume after a long pause due to the pandemic. Interestingly, this announcement came right after the UAE’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, announced that it’ll resume construction on the massive Jeddah Tower. As a result, the race to build the world’s first 1,000-meter long tower has just kicked into high gear.

If you’ve been following the UAE’s megaprojects and developments, then you might remember that the Dubai Creek Tower was first announced in 2016, and was set to become the tallest man-made building in the world, with an initially proposed height of 1,300 meters. That would’ve made it very easy for the Dubai Creek Tower to surpass what is currently the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which stands 828 meters tall.

The Progress

There’s actually been some considerable work done on the site. In fact, the project’s developer, Emaar Properties, managed to finish the tower’s foundations just two years after construction started. But, work on the main structure of the tower didn’t even start after this initial progress, because Emaar Properties was supposedly still searching for a contractor for the project. Then, the pandemic came, and all work on the Creek Tower came to a halt. It was even removed from Emaar Properties’ website, which led many to think that the project was canceled.

But, even though the future of Creek Tower was uncertain, work on the surrounding Dubai Creek Harbor area has continued as planned. This development is a brand new, high-end district in the Dubai Creek, with the tower emerging as its centerpiece, overlooking the harbor to the west with impressive views of both Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai.

Although the development has a long way to go before it’s fully complete, once finished the entire Creek development will span an area almost two times larger than Downtown Dubai. It’ll have enough residential areas to house around 200,000 people, in addition to tens of thousands of tourists.

The Redesign of the Dubai Creek Tower

The Dubai Creek Tower has one major update: it’s entire redesign. According to the founder of Emaar Properties, Mohamed Alabbar, the Creek Tower was picked up by an international firm chosen by Emaar after a long selection process. It seems that after pausing the project for so long, the developer decided the tower needed a new look.

Alabbar didn’t reveal the name of this international firm, but he said that the new design will elevate the grandeur and impact of the ambitious megaproject. Emaar Properties hopes to finalize the new design by April of this year, and begin construction in 2025.

While the actual reason for this sudden redesign is unknown, many people think it’s due to pressure from Emaar’s shareholders. Since this tower is one of the company’s biggest projects ever, abandoning it for three years wasn’t a good look. Not only that, but Alabbar backtracked on his previous words, and recently said that the Creek Tower will not be bigger than Burj Khalifa, which was the tower’s main attraction. Not only that, but Alabbar also said that he’ll “have to” be happy with the redesign.

For some unknown reason, Emaar is trying to reduce the scale of the tower to complete it in the shortest amount of time possible. In this case, its not even an issue of the company not having enough resources to complete the megaproject. Emaar hit $5.2 billion in revenues in Q3 of 2023, and has a sales backlog of $14.5 billion that will be recognized as revenue in the next few years.

Without a better explanation from Emaar, one can speculate that feasibility studies found issues with the original design that they were unable to fix. Or possible, the original design simply wasn’t practical. This wouldn’t be too surprising since one look at Creek Tower’s proposed design would cause almost anyone to question whether it would be successful.

After all, a building that’s 1 kilometer tall would have issues with stability, especially because the wind forces become stronger the higher up you go. Perhaps the redesign is meant to address these potential safety issues.

Hopefully, Emaar does not sacrifice the steel net which covers the tower in the original design. This is arguably the most iconic part of the design, and is what really sets the Dubai Creek Tower apart from other Dubai skyscrapers.

The Dubai Circle

Dubai Creek Tower

Imagine Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, then imagine a five-story ring hanging 550 meters in the air around the skyscraper. As absurd as it sounds, this is a new skyscraper idea for Downtown Dubai, called the Dubai Circle. This circle skyscraper is meant to be a neighborhood in the sky, as proposed by Dubai-based experimental architecture firm, ZNera Space. If completed, it will create a 3-kilometer wide ring encircling the Burj Khalifa.

According to ZNera Space, this concept is a response to a dilemma facing many cities: how to build densely, while at the same time, retaining livability. The company also calls Dubai Circle an alternative to the singular, disconnected skyscrapers found in any metropolitan area. According to the design, people will be able to travel from one end of the circle to another in suspended pods, while enjoying a stunning 360-degree view of the city. In fact, the ring would be so large that it would cover all of Downtown Dubai.

The circle’s interior will feature office spaces, cultural areas, and residential units, arranged into two separate sections joined together by a belt of green space called Skypark. Inside Skypark, the circle’s residents will enjoy different natural sceneries, like canyons, deserts, and gardens.

The whole structure will be supported by five giant pillars, built upon empty lots. These pillars would not just function as supports for the circle, but would also serve as air purifiers filtering out smog. ZNera hopes that thes pillars would create a microclimate sorrounding Downtown Dubai making the city more livable in the hot summer weather. Additionally, the ring will be sustainable and self-sufficient, powered by renewable energy.

Can it be Built?

The concept images released by ZNera sparked a conversation as to whether this project can even be built, withs some even calling it delusional. But, this engagement is exactly why the concept images were released in the first place.

In fact, ZNera wanted to start a conversation about the future of urban living, and get people talking about the project. There is no other information regarding construction plans, but ZNera estimated that the project could be completed by 2040 if it is approved.

While it initially it may look impossible to build, there are other buildings with mid-air construction features. In fact, one of these buildings is in Dubai. The world’s longest cantilever building, One Za’abeel, demonstrates that, while not easy, it is possible to undertake a project like the Dubai Circle.

Dubai Creek Tower

One Za’abeel includes a podium linking two towers built on either side of a six-lane highway. The podium is 226 meters long and towers 100 meters above the ground.

The Bottom Line

By now, its normal for Dubai to go out of its way to surprise with its architectural designs. Despite its skyline full of remarkable projects, you could say that the Dubai Circle, as well as Creek Tower, are two of the city’s most challenging megaprojects. Both could face engineering challenges if or once, construction starts.

However, Dubai has shown time and time again that even the wildest and craziest ideas aren’t impossible for a country that’s achieved so many impossible things already. Looking at the UAE’s development over such a short time, it certainly seems possible that these megaprojects will one day mark the city skyline.


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