Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai will soon play host to the world’s largest shopping mall - the gargantuan Mall of the World. Comprised of 48 million square feet of over-the-top retail, residential, and even medical services, the covered pedestrian city is expected to attract some 180 million visitors a year. I shudder at the thought.
In terms of density, this new Dubai Holding development is on the right track. Mixed use development is widely considered to be desirable in an urban context, and linking areas of the city with public transportation as well. But there’s more that goes into a city to create a wonderful, vibrant and inspiring space — it’s got to have soul.
With 25 hotels linked to the mall alone, any semblance of soul is already lost as far as I’m concerned. Add to that a three million square foot wellness center and seven kilometers of retail, and this place is starting to sound like a certain kind of hell.
Dubai Holding attempts to compare their development to La Rambla in Barcelona, but it will never be anything like it.
The Mall of the World is pure consumerism, and a particularly gilded form of it rarely seen in our age of austerity, poverty, hunger and war.
I find it particularly hard to see this development in the context of Syria’s war; as widows are trying to raise their children in refugee camps, and missiles are raining on Gaza, why do some people insist upon perpetuating such irresponsible excess?
Nonetheless, here are some details:
The development will have three districts, namely the hospitality district, which will have a total of 20,000 hotel rooms, a cultural district, which holds some promise as it will include a cinema art school, and the wellness district, which will have among its many amenities a facility that provides “one-day surgeries.”
Dubai wants to become the new Mexico for the wealthy elite. And why you ask is this on a green site?
Well, in part because Dubai Holding claims that their mammoth temperature-controlled pedestrian city linked by a tram network and filled with hundreds and hundreds of stores selling stuff that is completely unnecessary is a responsible development.
“We are ready to move forward with this unique concept, whose distinctive offering and strategic location will play an instrumental role in advancing the growth of Dubai’s tourism sector,” said Ahmad Bin Byat, Chief Executive Officer of the company.
“The project will follow the green and environmentally friendly guidelines of the Smart Dubai model. It will be built using state-of-the-art technology to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, ensuring high levels of environmental sustainability and operational efficiency.”
Sigh. I wish Dubai would follow the Masdar experiment in neighboring Abu Dhabi a little more closely. In any case, we expect this to be ready in time for Expo 2020 Dubai.