The Worlds islands in Dubai haven’t quite made it

A slideshow of failed tourist projects includes The Worlds project in Dubai:

The World Islands, Dubai

This artificial archipelago of small islands was dreamt up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, to look like the map of the world. And his hope was to turn the World Islands into the playground for the rich and famous. Construction of the 300 islands — made entirely of dredged sand — began in 2003. But when the financial crisis in the real world, it brought production of this $14 billion-dollar fantastical world to a halt. To date only two of the islands have come to fruition.

The World Islands, Dubai

It looks cool but it is hard to imagine (1) how much money and work it would take to finish such a project and then (2) who might purchase all of these unique properties.

But, if it did all go forward:

1. Who would purchase what spots in the world? Who wants the awkwardly placed Antarctica?

2. Does the development allow connections between the locations? How about bridges only where Risk lines are drawn?

Plans for a temperature controlled, 48 million square foot indoors “city” in Dubai

The building boom in Dubai continues with plans to build a massive indoor city:

united arab emirates’ vice president and prime minister, sheikh mohammed bin rashid has announced the world’s first temperature controlled city to be constructed in dubai. the vast 48 million square foot project, entitled ‘mall of the world’, will contain the planet’s largest shopping mall and an indoor theme park covered by a retractable glass dome that opens during winter months…

envisioned as an integrated pedestrian city, seven kilometer promenades connect the design, bringing together a wide variety of leisure, retail and hospitality options under one roof. a cultural district forms the hub of the site, with a dedicated theater quarter comprising a host of venues. the ‘celebration walk’ modeled on barcelona’s las ramblas will connect the district with the surrounding mall containing a range of conference, wedding and celebration halls.

The pictures are quite interesting. The scope of the project raises several questions:

1. At what point does an indoor space transition from being a mall to being a city? Others have proposed towns or cities within buildings (even immortalized in arcologies in SimCity). But, this development is clearly within Dubai and the comments from officials indicate it is closely tied to tourism. So, it doesn’t quite sound like a city unless you want to make it sound more impressive.

2. With the emphasis on tourism, just how authentic will this space really be? If this is just for tourists, that is a lot of space to maintain and make exciting. If it is more mixed-use and include residential units, then some genuine street life could develop. Put differently, is this a Dubai version of the Las Vegas strip or something different?

Regardless, if this all is completed, it would be a sight to behold.

Should oil reserves be used to build developments in “glittering cities”?

A commentator looking at Venezuela and the use of the money from its oil reserves suggests oil money should be spent on development in “glittering cities”:

While oil has ushered in spectacular construction projects for glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi, it’s brought relatively meager changes to Venezuela, which holds the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Nearly 14 years after President Hugo Chavez took office, and despite the biggest oil bonanza in Venezuela’s history, there’s little outward sign of the nearly one trillion petrodollars that have flowed into the country.

It would be interesting to hear experts talk about whether the urban development projects in the Middle East are really the best use of money from natural resources. On one hand, the cities look impressive. Dubai is now on the map partly because of the Burj Kalifa. American universities and European museums want to locate in such new cities. The buildings are all so new and exciting. At least in appearance, these cities can now compete with the best big cities in the world. Going further, some would argue cities are the engines of innovation and growth so spending money there on infrastructure and facilities could go a long way. Similarly, glittering cities might the result of financial and economic power.

On the other hand, money spent on buildings and cities is money that could be spent on education, health care, the development of human capital, and sustainable projects that will outlive the oil reserves. Cities may only be as good as its workers and residents who can contribute to social, economic, and political life. Could glittering cities simply be facades that mask a host of underlying social ills papered over by mineral wealth? Money may be spent in urban centers and yet residents in slums and in more rural areas may be essentially forgotten. More broadly, does a city necessarily have to be “glittering” to be successful? Indeed, are there cities in the world that are clearly successful and offer a high standard of living but are not glittering such as the Scandinavian capitals?

Rebounding from the economic crisis in Dubai

The economic crisis didn’t just affect American building or construction. The city that has grown out of the desert, Dubai, was also strongly affected and now is making a slow recovery:

Chastened after an extravagance-fueled debt crisis last year at Dubai World, the state-run investment giant, Dubai is getting back to basics.

Glamorous whimsies like a giant artificial island shaped like a palm tree are giving way to more pragmatic priorities meant to revive Dubai’s status as the dominant trading hub between the industrially advanced West and the oil-rich Middle East.

The article goes on to mention a number of factors that need to accompany building and development for it to last long-term including stable governance and a diversified economy.

One factor that is cited as aiding Dubai’s recovery is its established infrastructure.

Planning animal-shaped communities

The government of Southern Sudan has plans to create new cities in the shape of animals. The picture at the top of the news story of a city planned in the shape of a rhino is fascinating.

But there are some problems with this plan:

The $10.1 billion multi-decade project to re-create Southern Sudan’s 10 state capitals into elaborately-shaped dream towns may sound Dubai-esque — only Southern Sudan is no Dubai.

Actually, it is one of the poorest places on earth.

The undeveloped region — which lacks any paved roads outside its three main cities — is part of Africa’s largest nation, Sudan, which is ruled by the Khartoum government South Sudanese fought against for most of the past half century in two long civil wars.

But Southern Sudan expects to achieve independence next year through a January secession referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that granted the war-torn region self-rule until the vote.

Even without the unique city designs, the multi-billion dollar price tag alone was sure to turn heads. Southern Sudan’s total budget for 2010 is less than $2 billion, 98 percent of which comes from the oil revenues it hopes will fund its postwar re-construction.

If Dubai can construct islands in the shape of palms, can a currently non-existent government build cities in the shape of giraffes? It sounds like there are a lot of hurdles to clear before these development plans become reality.