25 January 2008

The Universe, a complex of artificial coral islands inspired by the solar system, is the latest architecture and engineering challenge destined to redesign the coastal profile of the Emirate. With islands resembling the sun, the moon and the planets, the universe will lie between Palm Jumeirah and Palm Deira, perfectly embracing the exclusive archipelago The World. The Universe too will be designed by real-estate development giant Nakheel. Luxurious residences, business centres as well as tourist and trade centres will be built on the 3,000ha of islands. Despite the announcement of the project, details are still shrouded in mystery: the amount of the investment was not disclosed, the construction deadlines are vague – ranging between 15 and 20 years – the regulation plan is yet to be defined as it depends on the various feasibility and environmental impact studies. Already criticised in the past for the strong impact that its projects could have on the coastal ecosystem of Dubai, Nakheel launched together with The Universe also the Blue Communities initiative for the study of sustainable coastal development with funding of 37.5 million Euro for the first three years.

“Blue Communities is an appeal for action,” Sultan Bin Sulayem said pointing out the “need of considerable investments in research, development and positive transformation of the coastal areas”. This commitment is aimed at various situations throughout the world, beyond the borders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The ambition to significantly increase the coastline of the emirate comes directly from Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al Maktum. When the engineers presented him with a project for the extension of the Dubai coastline with seven kilometres he asked “why not 70”. This challenge was the origin of the idea of a palm-shaped island, followed later by the other impressive projects in the waters of Dubai. A proliferation that does not seem associated to any concern of saturation. “The real estate market is led by the dynamism of the demand and the offer,” Sulayem said. “The Universe will be developed in separate stages which will evolve with the evolution of the future demand.” Amid business ambitions and environmental responsibilities, Nakheel has also announced that it will oversee the redevelopment of Port Rashid: ten years of work will transform the current structures in a residential community for at least 300,000 citizens.