Dystopia or dream? Dubai wants to build a domed “mall of the world” as Earth’s first climate-controlled city

Architecture Development International
(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

Dubai’s insatiable thirst for world firsts and records appears unquenched, as the city sets its eyes on yet another landmark title. Already home to the world’s tallest building and with plans in the pipeline for the first fully rotational skyscraper, developer Dubai Holdings has unveiled plans for what would be the world’s first climate-controlled city, something they call “The Mall of the World.”

Although it may not be quite on the scale of Buckminster Fuller’s plan to encapsulate Manhattan, Dubai is giving the late American architect a run for his money. The Mall of the World, if built, will be a staggering nine times larger than The Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.

The 4.3-mile-long shopping mall would be encapsulated by a retractable dome that would be capable of offering an air-conditioned environment to the inhabitant shoppers who want to escape the city’s searing desert heat. According to the developer, the space will be have almost 300 buildings with an annual capacity of up to 180 million visitors.

(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

By comparison, The Mall of America, built in 1992, offers a 5.4 million square feet of  floor space (plus an additional 2.5 million in a separate plaza).

Due to be complete by 2020, Dubai Holding COO Morgan Parker has said that the dome “will be critical to the Emirate’s economic growth.”  Already more than 100 engineers and architects are working on plans that will see the area occupy around 48 million square feet of space when complete. Also included in the scheme will be a vast network of 33 roads as well as walkways, cycle paths, bus routes, and Venetian-style waterways.

(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

(Courtesy Dubai Holdings)

Aside from copious amounts of shops and restaurants, the dome will also offer:

  • The largest indoor family theme park in the world
  • Wellness district catering to medical tourists in a 3-million-square-foot area
  • Cultural district comprising theatres built around New York’s Broadway, The Celebration Walk, similar to the Ramblas Street in Barcelona and shopping streets based on London’s Oxford Street
  • Dubai’s largest celebration centre accommodating 15,000 revellers

Naturally, the project has its vehement critics, with some labelling the project as a “dystopia waiting to happen.”

Only time will tell if Dubai’s dome is doomed.

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