PALM-OASIS: Reimagining a More-than-Human Dubai Waterfront


Planned to be the world’s largest waterfront development shaped like a crescent, the Dubai Waterfront is in trouble due to financial crisis, land sinking, and rising sea levels. Furthermore, the ecological controversies surrounding the project run counter to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, the crescent is not included in the 2040 Dubai Urban Master Plan, leaving great uncertainties but at the same time a unique opportunity for design imagination. Assuming the former scheme no longer fits in with the current sociocultural and geopolitical context, what kind waterfront and islands could be built to demonstrate Dubai’s ambition to become the greatest self-sufficient and climate-friendly city in the world?

A More-than-Human Island

The Dubai Waterfront, together with its adjacent mega palm-like projects, is the most convincing example of the Anthropocene: the impact of human beings has become equivalent to the drastic geologic forces that can manipulate sea and land. Given the context of recurrent economic and real estate crises, emerging climate disasters and ecological degradation, and ongoing biopolitical controversies, do we need an alternative story now? The suspension of the project gives planners and designers time to reconsider this pivotal question. How can the Dubai Waterfront, the epitome of human-centric development, be transformed into a project celebrating the inclusion of all life forms, from human beings to date palms, coral reefs and algae? Can the site become home to a more-than-human island?

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Images by INCO(g)NTXT (Mingjie Cai & Gandong Cai).