Dubai’s history is an extraordinary story with a plot twist. For many centuries, this place had been best known for valuable pearl hunting that was the basis of its economy. Life here was going on slowly, in harmony with nature, and it might have been so until today, if not for the events of 1966.
The great event of 1966 was, of course, the discovery of an oil field in Dubai. However, the money from the sale of black gold was not only used for luxury, but also investments, with particular emphasis on expenditure on health care, education, infrastructure and support for smaller members of the United Arab Emirates federation. The people of Dubai once learned the hard way how a collapse of the market (then pearls) can shake the stability of the country, so in the years of prosperity they decided to focus on the development of other sectors of the economy. Today, crude oil accounts for no more than 4 percent of the emirate’s GDP, and the treasury profits come from foreign trade, financial services and tourism. However, even such a wealthy country was not spared by the financial crisis of 2008-2010. One of the piece of evidence of overcoming it was the construction of the Burj Khalifa – currently the tallest building in the world.
After these economic considerations, without which it would be difficult to understand the phenomenon of Dubai, let’s take a closer look at the architectural wonders that are the showcase of this city.
On the top of the world – Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa – this building needs no introduction. You will see it from the plane’s windows during landing. However, not everyone knows that the skyscraper, considered the tallest in the world (828 m), was designed by the same architectural office, Skidmore, Owings and Merril, as, for example, Willis Tower – the showcase of Chicago. Burj Khalifa was initially supposed to resemble a desert flower and be over 100 m lower than it is now, but the architects’ ambitions, combined with Dubai grandeur, resulted in it being raised using a light steel structure with a spire. The building is “the best” in many respects, as it features the highest situated facilities in the world: a mosque, a swimming pool, a permanently inhabited floor and an observation deck as well as the longest elevator shaft. Moreover, the hotel located in it was designed by Giorgio Armani himself.
Wind in the sails – Burj Al Arab
The second most iconic building in Dubai is the sail-shaped luxury hotel Burj Al Arab. The developer set a real challenge for the architect – to create a building, which by its design referring to the history of the city, would become its symbol. The task was successfully undertaken by Tom Wright from the AS Atkins office. The selected location for the hotel is the Persian Gulf. The implementation of this ambitious idea required creation of an artificial island 280 meters into the sea. The building itself had to be resistant to strong winds from both the desert and the sea. For this purpose, its concrete core has been equipped with dampers, and the entire structure has been covered by a steel frame, whose job is to evenly distribute the gusts of air. Each of the apartments in Burj Al Arab has a sea view, and despite the often strong sun, guests are not bothered by the heat. This is ensured by walls made of two layers of material. However, not only the design of the hotel from the outside, but also its exclusive equipment deserves attention – the apartments are decorated with gold and marble, and guests have at their disposal numerous amenities, such as diving pools, private cinemas, a helipad and medical rooms. The hotel industry had not rating scale for Burj Al Arab, which is why it was called “deluxe” (absolute luxury).
Museum of the Future (opening probably in 2021)
When talking about Dubai’s architectural gems, it is impossible not to mention the spectacular building of the Museum Of The Future.The futuristic, silver block by Shaun Kill resembles a time capsule.This association is absolutely appropriate, as in accordance with the assumptions of the investor and designer, it is not only a museum, but also a place of innovation, an incubator for ambitious ideas, a safe haven for inventors and great minds of the world.
It is worth noting that the walls of the Museum of the Future are covered with the text of a poem, the letters of which let the sunrays inside the building. The facility is located on Dubai’s widest highway, close to the twin Emirates Towers. The building is based on a steel structure and its walls are made of fiberglass. Its shape and openwork cut-outs were made by computer-controlled machines. The cost of the investment is estimated at $ 13 million. Unfortunately, the museum is not yet available to visitors – it is expected to be opened in 2021.
Dubai Frame in Zabeel Park
Dubai Frame is one of the city’s most unusual architectural projects. It is made up of 153-meter-high skyscrapers placed next to each other, which are connected by a partly glazed 93-meter bridge, thanks to which the whole thing looks like a large photo frame. Dubai Frame is said to have been created to connect Old Dubai with New Dubai and show, literally illustrate, the changes that have taken place in this city over the last few decades. The exhibitions located in both high-rise buildings are noteworthy – the first shows the appearance of Dubai in the past, while on the other side of the mezzanine floor you can see the gallery of the future, predictions about what the city will look like in the next 50 years.
Attractions of Old Dubai
Dubai Frame is close to the older parts of the city – Bur Dubai and Deira. Instead of skyscrapers and large shopping centres, there are Arab markets, oriental restaurants, and traditional buildings characteristic for the countries of this region. Visiting these places will give you a sense of what life in Dubai was like before the discovery of oil. Particularly noteworthy is the restored Al Fahidi district, whose narrow streets allow you to feel the atmosphere of the Orient. Among them you can find Al Fahidi Port, the oldest building in the city, the seat of the Dubai Museum. From there, it is close to the boat stop, which is worth taking to the other side of the Dubai Creek canal, to the Deira district. You can see there, among others, the Gold Market and Spice Market, which are as interesting attractions as a walk among high-rise buildings.
Back to the roots
Although currently Dubai’s showpieces are the spectacular skyscrapers and luxury hotels, it is possible that this will change in the near future. The need to emphasize the Arab origin and have eco-buildings adapted in terms of the selection of materials and structures to the prevailing climate is being voiced more and more often this emirate. This trend is reflected in the newly built facilities that refer to the Arab architectural traditions and history of Dubai. A prime example of this is Madinat Jumeirah, a complex of buildings and canals that imitates an ancient Arab settlement.