Currently under construction in Dubai, Hydropolis is the world''s first luxury underwater hotel. It will include three elements: the land station, where guests will be welcomed, the connecting tunnel, which will transport people by train to the main area of the hotel, and the 220 suites within the submarine leisure complex. It is one of the largest contemporary construction projects in the world, covering an area of 260 hectares, about the size of London''s Hyde Park.
"Hydropolis is not a project; it''s a passion," enthuses Joachim Hauser, the developer and designer of the hotel. His futuristic vision is about to take shape 20m below the surface of the Arabian Gulf, just off the Jumeirah Beach coastline in Dubai. The £300 million, 220-suite hotel is due to open at the end of 2007 and will incorporate a host of innovations that will take it far beyond the original blueprint for an underwater complex worthy of Jules Verne.
There are only a few locations in the world where such a grandiose dream could be realised. A high proportion of today''s architectural marvels are materialising like fanciful mirages from the desert sands. We have come to expect extravagant enterprises to be mounted in the Middle East, and especially in Dubai. "This venture could only be born here in Dubai," says Hauser. "It [has] a very open-minded, international community - and that''s what makes it so special."
The land on which Hydropolis is being built belongs to His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. It was his last free beach property on this stretch of coast. The project is a fantastic one, yet Sheikh Mohammed''s success record with comparable schemes instils confidence that science fiction can become fact. With his support, several companies have been formed to kick-start this phenomenal project, and around 150 firms are currently involved.
UNDERWATER HOTEL DESIGN
The original idea for Hydropolis developed out of Hauser''s passion for water and the sea, and goes much deeper than just building a hotel underwater. More than just curiosity, it is a commitment to a more far-reaching philosophy. "Once you start digging deeper and deeper into the subject, you can''t help being fascinated and you start caring about all the associated issues," he explains. "Humans consist of 80% water, the earth consists of 80% water; without water there is no life."
Hydropolis reproduces the human organism in an architectural design. There is a direct analogy between the physiology of man and the architecture. The geometrical element is a figure eight lying on its side and inscribed in a circle. The spaces created in the basin will contain function areas, such as restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and theme suites. These can be compared to the components of the human organism: the motor functions and the nervous and cardiovascular systems, with the central sinus knot representing the pulse of all life.
The ballroom, located at this nerve centre, will have asymmetrical pathways connecting the different storeys along ramps. A large, petal-like retracting roof will enable the staging of open-sky events. Staircases, lifts and ramps will provide access to the ballroom, while flanking catering areas will supply banquets and receptions.
HYDROPOLIS LAND STATION
In order to enter this surreal space, visitors will begin at the land station. This 120m woven, semicircular cylinder will arch over a multi-storey building. On the lowest level passengers board a noiseless train propelled by fully automated cable along a modular, self-supporting steel guideway to Hydropolis. A just-in-time and on-demand logistical system will facilitate efficient supply of goods to the hotel.
The upper storeys of the land station house a variety of facilities, including a cosmetic surgical clinic, a marine biological research laboratory and conference facilities. On the lower levels are the staftorage and loading areas, and hotel and parking areas.
The land station also includes a restaurant and high-tech cinema screening the evolution of life in the ocean and the history of underwater architecture. As a finale, the screen will open to reveal the real-life Hydropolis. A viewing platform at the front opening of the spanning roof will allow views of the architecture as well as the light shows of Hydropolis.
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