Never a city to shy away from the big, the bold, and sometimes, the brass, Dubai’s forward-thinking urban planning has cemented it as the place to look to for designs of the future. With many options to choose from, it was hard to pick only six of Dubai’s most innovative buildings.
The Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, and Palm Jumeirah may be some of the most famous examples of progressive design, but the innovation doesn’t stop there. Here are six of Dubai’s most innovative buildings and newer landmarks that are almost beyond belief. Almost, we say, but in Dubai, anything seems possible.
1. Looking Forward: The Museum of The Future
It’s impossible not to notice Dubai’s newly-opened Museum of the Future while you visit the city. Located just off the city’s main thoroughfare, Sheikh Zayed Road (incidentally, this road is said to be the longest in the UAE, too), you’ll no doubt drive past this building a few times during your trip. You’ll quickly identify it thanks to its torus shape, and Arabic calligraphy. The calligraphy is a replication of a poem written by Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who reflects on his visions for the city’s future. Inside, expect a virtual guide to show you around, robotic baristas to get your favourite drink, and silver penguins flying overhead. Yes, really.
2. Picture Perfect: The Dubai Frame
Dubai isn’t all glitz and glam; head to the old town and take an abra to explore traditional souks and 18th century forts. Once you’re done, head to The Dubai Frame to really get a sense of the city as a whole. Designed to resemble a photo frame – the largest in the world – this 50 story building bridges the old and the new. Take the lift up to floor number 48 (it only takes 75 seconds) to admire the view. On one side you’ll be looking back towards Dubai’s historical buildings, and from the other the city’s newer skyscrapers stretch out in front of you. If you dare, tiptoe across the glass walkway at 150 metres high. Your Instagram feed will thank you.
3. Desert Thunderstorms: The Green Planet Dubai
No, your eyes are not deceiving you, this is a rainforest in the desert. We wouldn’t have thought it possible to create this steamy environment – complete with 3000 species of flora and fauna usually found in the tropics – in a dry, arid environment. But Dubai is always proving us wrong. Explore the lives of anacondas and pythons, swim with piranhas, snap a selfie with a toucan, and even experience a thunderstorm – a novel adventure in the usually sunny city.
4. An Architectural Legacy: The Opus
The Iraqi-British, Late Dame Zaha Hadid, has long been known for her creative approach to architecture, and The Opus building in Dubai is no exception. Home to the ME Dubai by Meliá, this is the only hotel in the world where Hadid was the designer of both the interior, and the exterior. Her award winning architecture is evident from the outside: a cube-like mirrored building with a central void carved through its centre. Inside, the ME Dubai hotel boasts 74 bedrooms and 19 suites, each furnished with Zaha Hadid designed sofas, beds, sinks, showers, and more. Elsewhere the building houses residential apartments, office spaces, and plenty of dining options. Our favourites of the latter include Roka and The Maine. It would be hard not to include Hadid in a round of six of Dubai’s most innovative buildings.
5. 3D Printing: Dubai Municipality
Dubai has lofty goals when it comes to 3D printing: it wants to become the global capital of it by 2030. To achieve their world-leading goal, the Emirate aims to erect 25 per cent of its buildings using the technology in the next eight years. Work in the field is well underway and in 2020, Dubai Municipality used 3D printing to create the largest 3D printed building in the world: a 640 square metre, two-story, multi-room building that is used as office space. Suzhou in China has printed a building that is taller (though smaller when measured in square metres), so the competition is on.
6. Space Adventures: The Moon
When you’ve surpassed all other superlatives – the world’s tallest building, its biggest shopping mall, and largest dancing fountain – it must be a somewhat daunting task to come up with the next impressive endeavour. But Dubai’s out-of-this-world thinking has just reached another age. The space age. MOON, a proposal announced earlier this month, is a $5 billion, 735 feet tall replica of the moon. Inside it will house a resort, private residences, a nightclub, a spa, and a shopping centre. The pièce de résistance here is a zero-gravity ‘moon walk’ experience, allowing visitors to get a feel for the sensation of walking on the actual moon. Forget ‘to the moon and back’, Dubai is bringing the moon to us.