Plans Are Underway to Breathe New Life into Dubai’s Archipelago of 300 Islands

By all indications, the ambitious The World Project in Dubai is getting a second wind.

Whether you call the Dubai-based project, The World, an example of a dream deferred, a dream delayed, or a crackpot scheme that raised more red flags than the number of islands planned for the archipelago, it looks like some developers attached to the project have decided to give it another go.

The project was the brainchild of Nakheel, the wildly successful property developer in Dubai, as a kind of playground for the wealthy circle of elite investors who support the tremendously lucrative real estate ventures in the area, offering them “unprecedented opportunities in the form of leisure, residential and tourist developments.”

 Plans Are Underway to Breathe New Life into Dubai’s Archipelago of 300 Islands
Source: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr

Located only 4 kilometers off the coast of Dubai in the Gulf Sea, the original concept was to arrange the location of 300 islands that make up the archipelago so that they resemble the 7 continents.

About 25 million metric tons of rock were used build up the islands. Also, at the time the project was announced, Nakheel also boasted that once completed, The World would result in the addition of more than 232 kilometers of beachfront area to the already white sandy Dubai coastline.

The video below captures the mood of desolation on the many islands surrounding the up and operating Lebanon Island: 

The Guardian architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright put it briefly: “After a decade in limbo, The World is back—with more ambitious plans than ever before.” The slowdown was so quick and sudden—mostly caused by Dubai’s financial crash—that it almost warrants the creation of a special Interesting Engineering article called “What Were They Thinking: 11 (Since We’re Counting, Let’s Scale It Up to 19) Reasons Why Overambitious Developers Overshot the Mark on The World Project”.

The narrative that’s emerging lately is that the work and schemes attached to one island seem to have an effect—both positive and negative—on the type of projects that are happening on neighboring islands.

Hoping to capitalize on this idea and breath new life into the project is Joseph Kleindienst, with The Heart of Europe, which seems to be a kind of Las Vegas-inspired approach to combining artificial, over-the-top, and otherworldly decadence (let’s not forget theme-based).

Kleindienst has big plans for the group of 6 islands too, which will involve Swiss chalets, Russian palaces, Austrian castles and Polynesian huts (no one can say he doesn’t have an international approach to the design aesthetic):

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“I am going to make it snow all year round,” he said, adding, “Rain and snow might not be so attractive if you live in northern Europe, but to someone in Dubai they are magical things,” he says. “People here dance in the street when it rains.” He has plans to wrap up the project by 2020.

Beyond fruitless speculation, one cannot truly know the reason behind the delay or the sudden change of direction, and with such vast sums of money attached the project, it doesn’t seem to much matter.

In the end, the true goal of The World is to blend the line between fantasy and reality so perfectly that it seems to disappear—or at the very least, hold the line above you just out of eye’s view during your stay on one of the islands.