DOSarchitects were delighted to be among the select few companies worldwide invited to submit proposals for an island as part of the widely publicised Dubai World project, still in its inception phase. The World is a man-made archipelago of 300 small islands in the shape of a world map, with each island conceived to invoke in some way the culture or geography of its corresponding country, whilst essentially functioning as a luxury residential resort. This is surely the closest an architecture firm can come to the old proverbial adage of 'man playing God'!
We were thrilled by the grand scale and enormous breadth of design possibilities afforded by the brief, as well as the multiple complex new functional requirements of the island form. Each residential segment must be unique yet desirable; there must be a self-sufficient marina area, recreational and retail space, universal access networks across the island, and resistance to natural elements such as tide and sun. We were keen to establish a distinct, original and coherent identity for Egypt, whilst resisting the more obvious cliches which would render the island a simplistic, commercial enterprise. The Arabic elements we chose as starting points were subtler features of typical landscape, domestic detail such as sand-based materials, block structures and internal courtyards, and a strong articulation of level across the island, as inspired by the multi-layered patchwork of Cairo's city centre.
Our design creates a radial focus point of the crescent-shaped port, curving in a welcome embrace towards the ocean, from whence the visitor is drawn irresistibly towards the central island reception. At the heart of the island, the internal scheme spirals upwards towards the central gardens, pools, spa and retail facilities, overlooking an outer shell of villas which radiate towards the sea. A luxurious beach occupies the Southern rim of the island, carefully shielded from the hubbub of the port and the domestic and commercial centres.
Organised geographically according to solar exposition and access routes, the residential blocks vary in opulence, from the grand sea-villas with East-facing vistas to the smaller internal terraced apartments. Optimization of space in this case was a crucial consideration, allowing for the maximum number of domestic units whilst avoiding any sense of overcrowding or constraint. The flow of the island's geometry is therefore both inwards, through the port and reception towards the hidden paradise at the heart, and outwards, towards the calm expanse of sea.