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Dubai Houseboat Beautiful, Modern, Completely Unnecessary

Posted by on Friday, March 30th, 2012

Architects typically incorporate water into their designs for one of two reasons: necessity or luxury. For places like the Netherlands, coming up with creative design alternatives for houses is pretty much necessary to stave off the dangers of rising water levels. Over on the other end of the spectrum, aquatic architecture can also be a lavish and over-the-top way to show off some wealth and attract visitors.

Interior Living area on the Dubai Houseboat

Image: Style Crave

For Dubai, a city that has been building the world’s largest skyscraper, an indoor ski park, and one of the world’s largest malls, take a wild guess as to which of these two options motivates the builders there.

Dubai Houseboat's Dining Room

Image: Style Crave

The folks over at X-Architects have built a swanky floating bachelor pad off the coast of the city of Dubai. Why? To show off — what else? This desert city rarely sees rising water levels and really doesn’t need to worry about much other than the nearby ocean tide. Architects in the city have built a few aquatic structures, but they’ve pretty much all been a means to flaunt how cool they are rather than fulfill any real, practical need.

Houseboat Sun Deck

Image: Style Crave

It’s a bit showy, sure, but does that make it any less awesome? Not hardly. This sleek and modern abode is almost entirely white, giving it a clean and crisp look. The upper deck (or “second floor” if you think it’s more house than boat) holds the kitchen, living room, and dining room. The lower level holds the bathroom and bedrooms. This 220 square-meter home has everything a Dubai homeowner could possibly need — all balanced on two floating catamaran beams. It’s even got a steering cabin on the off chance that you don’t like your neighbors.

A View of the Bay from the Dubai Houseboat

Image: Style Crave

Considering Dubai’s penchant for going to architectural extremes, it’s actually quite likely that we’ll see more floating houses drifting along the Dubai coast in the near future. Many miles to the north, Dutch architects are laboring to build floating communities that will allow citizens to live safely without fear of floods. Somewhat ironically, the ultra-rich city of Dubai might beat them to the punch just because a floating community would be a neat thing to build.

Dubai Houseboat Spiral Staircase

Image: Style Crave


Build Snowmen in the Desert at Ski Dubai

Posted by on Thursday, March 29th, 2012

When you’re wealthy, you can import the finest products from around the world. For the right price, you can enjoy Persian rugs, French wines, or German cars. Sometimes, high-demand commodities can be a bit difficult to import. In the balmy city of Dubai, for example, how do you give people the opportunity to ski?

Lift Chairs at Ski Dubai

Image: SkiDubai

As you might expect, the Middle East region doesn’t get much snow. That didn’t stop Majid Al Futtaim Properties from bringing skiing and snowboarding to the middle of the desert with an enormous indoor ski area, Ski Dubai.

Sky Dubai is as impressive as it is ludicrous. Yes, it’s snow in the middle of the desert, showing that “a snowball’s chance in hell” might not be so far off the mark. Once you get past just how weird it is, you’ll discover that Ski Dubai has every feature you could possibly want in an indoor snow area. Really, the only thing that it’s missing is alleged yeti spottings.

An Internal Shot of the Ski Dubai Slopes

Image: Snopes

The main attraction is, of course, the ski slope. The facility boasts five different tracks, each with its own difficulty level, and it has the world’s very first black run. For the snowboarders out there, there’s also a 90-meter-long quarter pipe.

Snowboarder at Ski Dubai

Image: AwesomeOff

Kids can get in on the fun too. Designers specifically included an area where kids can romp around in the snow and generally do kid stuff. Sleds, an ice slide, a snowman area, a mirror maze, and a snowball throwing zone give desert-dwelling kids a chance to experience the frigid wonder of a New England winter. Unfortunately, they’ll still have to miss out on the snow day school cancellations.

Ski Dubai Includes Kid Areas

Image: Onkar Kular

The folks who run Ski Dubai were considerate enough to include hats, coats, gloves, and boots as part of the admission fee. After all, it’d be a little bit ridiculous if every visitor had to go out and buy their own winter coat just for one day of snowball chucking.

Ski Dubai and the Dubai Mall

Image: Mountain Yahoos

A clever engineering design keeps all 6000 tons of Ski Dubai’s snow just below freezing so that visitors can experience the exhilarating chill of snowy weather without being turned off by subzero extremes. Add all of this to the fact that it’s connected to the Dubai Mall, and you’ve got a place that will tempt you to spend every last penny on whimsical activities. Shopping, skiing, snowmen, and desert heat all in the same place. The Dubai Mall might actually be the most ridiculous place on earth.

Oh, and did I mention that they have penguins?


Underwater Hotel Design Flounders after Economic Crisis

Posted by on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Dubai’s architectural rise to fame is something of a tragic story. They experienced an unprecedented economic boom, which enabled them to rapidly expand and build some of the most impressive structures in the world. The designers fed off of each other, as each over-the-top building encouraged other designers to create an even more ludicrous design for their own buildings. Unfortunately, the world economic crisis hit and many of the plans never got past the blueprint phase.

Aerial View of the Dubai Underwater Hotel

Image: Born Rich

Such was the fate of Hydropolis, a hotel that would have broken several records. At a $300 million price tag, it would have been the single most expensive hotel on Earth. On top of that, it would have been the world’s first complete underwater 5-star hotel.

But don’t think about it as a much more elaborate submarine. The hotel was intended to breach the surface of the water to provide easy access to the lower levels. Visitors could enter and then descend to their rooms, where glass panel walls would provide an unparalleled view of the ocean. Events would be held on the upper-most level, allowing visitors to appreciate the Dubai skyline.

Hydropolis Underwater Hotel

Image: Arch Record

The most ridiculous feature of Hydropolis is that it was actually intended to have its own missile defense system, just in case terrorists happen to get their hands on a military grade torpedo and want to sink a glitzy hotel.

What would all of these features cost the average Joe Blow looking to drop gobs of money on a lavish vacation? The cost of a single night was estimated at a staggering $5,500.

Rendering of a Room at the Hydropolis

Image: Mirage Studio 7

As you might expect, the designers encountered quite a few difficulties in the planning phase. Construction problems raised environmental concerns and the massive cost caused a few delays. The economic crisis put the final nail in its coffin.

Unfortunately, the German designer Joachim Hauser never had his chance to build his visionary underwater hotel. It’s a shame, too, because he would have been able to build it twice. The original plans called for construction to take place in Germany before disassembling it and reassembling it in Dubai.

Imagining of a Room at the Hydropolis Hotel

Image: Hotel 4 uuu

Oh, well. I guess that Hydropolis will just be another Titanic-esque failure. What is it about larger-than-life aquatic endeavors that tempts fate to step in and mess everything up?


Chinese Mall Shows off LED Fish, Sharks, Whales, and Dragons

Posted by on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Does a painting of the ocean count as aquatic architecture? I’d say no. How about a mural on the side of a building depicting the ocean? Eh, that’s still a little iffy. What about a gigantic virtual fish tank made from LEDs?

Aquatic Images on China's LED Aquarium

Image: Weirdomatic

Not all aquatic architecture has to have H2O. Sometimes, a structure only needs to invoke the image or feeling of water to get the message across. Water can be a great source of artistic inspiration and design features. Just look at these droplet-inspired buildings.

That’s the basic idea behind Beijing Mall’s massive virtual aquarium, a 250 x 30 meter screen dotted with millions of LED lights. The whole thing is suspended several meters off the ground so that shoppers can walk under it, look up, and experience what it would be like to walk on the bottom of the ocean.

Coral Reef on the Aquatic LED Screen

Image: Weirdomatic

Or pictures of faces, or advertisements, or whatever else it happens to be displaying at the moment. The screen is actually designed to show a wide variety of images. It can show video games, uploaded pictures, special videos during events, or just about anything you could imagine. When it’s not being used for anything else, though, it defaults to a lively pseudo-aquarium.

This versatility makes it the most densely populated aquariums in the world, assuming we can get past the tiny little concern that none of the fish are actually real. Still, the screen shows off coral, manta ray, sharks, tropical fish, whales, and even a few dragons. Don’t expect to find views like that at your local aquarium.

Swimming Dragon at the Beijing Mall

Image: Weirdomatic

What did this elaborate light show cost? A whopping $32 million. Once you get up to numbers like that, it seems that you’d just be better off building an actual, real-life aquarium. After all, the folks down in Dubai pulled off a mall aquarium.

The Beijing aquarium is neat and all — don’t get me wrong. I just feel like it kind of misses the point. In this day and age, pretty much everything we come in contact with is simulated and virtual. We’re so disconnected from the world around us that we often go out of our way and travel halfway around the world just to experience a bit of authenticity.

Beijing Mall's LED Aquarium

Image: Weirdomatic

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in front of a computer connected to the Internet, so I’m only a few keystrokes away from looking at pictures of fish, deep sea expeditions, sharks, or pretty much anything else. Yet, I still go to aquariums because it lets me see real fish. This LED screen is certainly a spectacle and I suspect that I’d spend a few minutes staring at it if I ever end up in a Beijing Mall, but I think I’d have more fun if I could stare at actual fish instead.


Dubai Beautiful Tropical Island Paradise: Brilliant or Foolish?

Posted by on Monday, March 26th, 2012

Depending on if it’s near a city or not, beachfront property can really go at a premium. That ocean view will increase the value of the property by thousands upon thousands of dollars.Dubai, a port city located in the Middle East, has recently undergone a huge commercial boom, resulting in rampant commercial expansion. In a very quick period of time, all of the beachfront property got nabbed up and developed into commercial sites.

Aerial Shot of the Dubai Islands

Image: Dubai-Architecture

So, what this stupidly rich city decided to do was just make more beachfront property. That’s a pretty obvious solution, right?

The architectural group Nakheel Properties spearheaded this major undertaking. Together with marine contractors Jan De Nul and Van Oord, they drudged the surrounding sea and deposited sand and rock along the coast of the city to create beautiful palm tree-shaped peninsulas and islands.

Dubai Manmade Palm Islands

Image: Dubai-Architecture

Of course, this is Dubai we’re talking about, a place that has become legendary for its absurd, over-the-top architectural creations. It would take a lot more than a palm tree island to impress the citizens of Dubai. From there, they built two more palm tree islands, a set of islands known as “The Universe” organized in the shape of a galaxy, and a clump of islands entitled “The World,” which look pretty much exactly like planet Earth.

The World in Dubai

Image: Dubai-Architecture

Many of the islands hold a number of commercial, residential, and leisure buildings, though The World is virtually barren; the world recession hit and killed most of its intended projects. On the bright side, though, the Palm Islands are host to some truly enviable suburbs. Each of the branches literally has a beach, a line of houses, a road, and then more houses and a beach. These communities would put most California gated communities to shame.

Communities in the Dubai Palm Island

Image: Dubaiw

In a way, it’s surprising that we don’t see more island-creating projects, especially in places like the US and Europe. Building man-made islands is clearly possible with the proper funding. Perhaps one of the major factors as to why you don’t see this type of construction more often is because people are afraid that it is too difficult or financially risky — two factors which Dubai has been having trouble overcoming. Many of the projects for the islands faltered, and some claim that the islands are actually sinking back into the sea. Hopefully, these islands will prove to be a financial success, and they won’t just become a giant metaphor for the hubris of mankind.


Japan’s Churaumi: The Only Place to Find Fish that are Fresher than Sushi

Posted by on Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Last but not least on this week’s journey through the aquariums of the world is Japan’s Churaumi Aquarium, which means “beautiful ocean” in Japanese. Churaumi temporarily held the record for the world’s largest aquarium, but the Georgia Aquarium took the crown after it was completed.

Still, the world’s second biggest aquarium is nothing to sneeze at. The aquarium boasts an impressive 10,000 cubic meters of H20 (2.6 million gallons) and displays more fish than you can shake a chopstick at.

Varieties of Fish at the Churaumi Aquarium

Image: Pet Mania

This aquarium is a bit unique in that it specializes entirely on local sea life. Rather than using animals from all over the world, the Churaumi is divided into three different sections, each one showing off the wildlife of specific Japanese regions.

Whale Shark at Churaumi

Image: Darraughbj

The first section invites visitors to examine the warm, shallow waters that surround that Japanese islands. Here, visitors can check out small, bright, colorful fish darting through coral formations.

Coral Exhibit at Churaumi

Image: Japan-I

The second area displays the inhabitants of the famous Kuroshio (Black Current). This nutrient-rich portion of the sea is the foundation of the local aquatic biosystems, and it is teeming with enormous fish, sharks, and manta rays.

Kuroshio Sea Tank

Image: Homepage.mac

The third and final exhibit shines a dim light on the murky depths of the abyss. Here, pale fish swim through clouded tanks, tempting prey to their doom and wowing onlookers with their bizarre shapes and alien faces.

Deep Sea Exhibit at Churaumi

Image: Oki-Churaumi

One of the Churaumi’s main attractions is the Shark Research Lab (Sea of Dangerous Sharks). Because let’s be honest: who doesn’t love sharks? Here, tourists can check out live specimens of sharks as they patrol their tanks, or feel awed by the massive fossilized jaws of the extinct megalodon shark, a beast that dwarfs the modern-day great white shark. They’ve even got a hands-on area where you can feel the sandpaper-like skin of various shark species.

After visitors have had a heaping dose of primordial fear at the shark zone, they can unwind at the dolphin, manatee, and sea turtle pools, where the inhabitants are more concerned with fun and games or lazy lounging.

Manatee at the Churaumi Aquarium

Image: 8 Tokyo

Churaumi also has a bit of a reputation for its successful breeding programs. Nearly half a dozen manta have given birth at Churaumi since its opening, while the manatee tank holds a few manatee young.


AquaDom: Berlin’s $17 Million Elevator

Posted by on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

We’re going to take a slight departure from what you might consider your typical aquarium to check out a gigantic fish tank that’s just weird enough to make the list. Today, we’re taking a look at the AquaDom, one of the world’s weirdest aquariums. What’s so bizarre about it? Take a look for yourself:

AquaDom Aquarium at the Radisson Blu

Image: Inthralld

The builders of Berlin’s Radisson Blu Hotel shattered geometric conventions when they built this enormous, column-like fish tank. Topping out at a height of 25 meters, this fish tank currently holds the record for the world’s biggest cylindrical aquarium, and that title’s well earned. The massive tank holds 900,000 liters of seawater (that’s about 240,000 gallons us Americans), and 1,500 fish across 50 different species.

Fish Swimming in the Aqua Dom

Image: Panoramio

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You probably estimated the circumference of the tank, multiplied by Pi, carried the 2, and figured out that this tank should hold way more than 900,000 liters. You wouldn’t be able to tell just from looking at the pictures, but the whole center of the fish tank is actually hollow.

View from the Aqua Dom Elevator

Image: Wikipedia

In an amazing feat of architectural engineering, the designers placed an elevator in the center of the AquaDom. Guests are free to hop in the lift at the foot of the tank and then slowly ascend through the center of the aquarium, watching as the fish swim in front of their very eyes. It’s a bit like a much more vertically inclined version of the underwater tunnels you so frequently see at conventional aquariums.

Diver in the Aqua Dom

Image: Aqua Views

This aquarium has a rather interesting effect that you don’t often get in places like L’Oceanografic or the Dubai Mall. We usually tend to focus on the width of the oceans, because when we look out across the surface of the water the blue waves just seem to go on forever. That idea is reinforced in conventional aquariums, as most tanks are short and wide to accommodate visitors as they walk along the viewing panels.

Looking Up in the Aqua Dom Elevator

Image: Bestourism

In contrast, it can be a lot harder to really grasp the depth of the ocean simply because we can’t see the ocean floor. Even in modern aquariums, where you can see everything, you don’t really get a sense of ocean depth. That’s what makes Radisson Blu’s aquarium so unique in the world of aquatic architecture. Even by just glancing at this tank, you can immediately get a sense of just how incredibly deep the ocean is. The path of the elevator represents the journey from the ocean floor to the surface, an experience most people can’t really visualize unless they strap on some scuba gear.

When all is said and done, this 13 million euro (approximately $17 million) fish tank is sure to turn some heads. Has the AquaDom attracted enough customers to pay off its hefty price tag? It’s hard to say, but one thing’s for sure: it certainly beats elevator music.


Shopping with Sharks at the Dubai Mall

Posted by on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I love aquariums. But, of course, I write for an aquatic architecture blog, so is that really a surprise to anyone? I jump on the opportunity to visit an aquarium, but my main problem with them is that you kind of have to make a whole day out of it. It takes hours to see everything, and you usually have to sit through a lengthy drive just to get there, so visiting an aquarium can really suck up a lot of your time. It’s really a bit ironic: the human species loves water and we see it everywhere (just look at how many cities are built next to oceans, rivers, and lakes), but seeing an aquarium is kind of a rare sight.

A Child Viewing the Dubai Mall Aquarium

Image: World-Visits

The builders of the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shopping areas, intended to change that by bringing the beauty of aquarium life to people going about their daily business. Running along the center of the Dubai Mall is a massive aquarium home to over 33,000 creatures, which includes over 400 sharks and rays. Unlike most aquariums, which feature several sets of tanks, the Dubai Mall puts all of its fish eggs into one basket, so to speak, by focusing shoppers’ attention on this single exhibit.

It shouldn’t be surprising, as Dubai has become somewhat notorious for over-the-top architecture. Dubai recently went through something of an architectural renaissance and rapid economic growth, shattering negative stereotypes about the Middle East and proving that they be just as prosperous as any other country.

Dubai Mall's Record-Breaking Acrylic Panel

Image: Touropia

Creating such an enormous, central tank actually took a bit of engineering finesse. The custom-built acrylic viewing panel broke the record for being the largest of its kind at 27 by 108 feet. As with most modern aquariums, this aquarium also has a glass tunnel that runs along the bottom of tank so that shoppers can get up close and personal with the denizens of the deep.

Dubai Mall Shark Tunnel

Image: Thelede

These architectural achievements did not go off without a snag, however, as the whole thing sprung a leak. Back in February of ’10, a crack unleashed a deluge of water into the mall. Security officials quickly evacuated the mall and addressed the issue, and the mall reopened the next day. Mall spokespersons claimed that the leak did not adversely affect the aquatic environment or its inhabitants.

The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Image: Daily Mail

Considering the popularity of the Dubai Mall aquarium, it’s really rather surprising that we don’t see more exhibits like it around the world. In a way, it follows the same general logic as placing a movie theater inside of a mall. It encourages people to come for the entertainment and stay for the shopping, or vice versa. I mean, I’m a stereotypical male, so I envision a trip to the mall with approximately the same enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist. Though, if my local mall had a 245 ton aquarium, I think I’d be inclined to take my gal shopping much more often.

Hundreds of Fish in the Dubai Mall Aquarium

Image: Flickr


L’Oceanografic: Fusing Amusement Park with Aquarium

Posted by on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Day two on our week-long journey into the azure world of aquariums takes us to Spain, which is just a short hop, skip, and 3,000 mile swim away from yesterday’s featured Georgia Aquarium. The massive L’Oceanografic is Europe’s largest aquarium, holding 11 million gallons of water. Of course, saying that it holds that much water is kind of meaningless, isn’t it? I have trouble visualizing how big 100 gallons of water is, let alone 1 million.

Layout of L'Oceanografic

Image: Valencia-CityGuide

So, let’s not dwell too heavily on its dimensions and how many visitors it gets in a year. Let’s focus on all of the really cool stuff, like what exhibits they have and the architecture.

Yes, the architecture is definitely worth mentioning. Designed by famous Spanish architect Felix Candela, L’Oceanografic has a rather unique and beautiful style. Large, sweeping white arcs, a bit like those of the Sydney Opera House, reach towards the sky. A sheet of reflective glass covers the front of each arc, making it appears as though the building is a wave rising out of the water. On top of all that, it’s in the middle of a lake, so it truly does bring to mind images of tsunami waves.

Architecture of a building at L'Oceanografic

Image: Fundacionac

There are two such arc-like buildings, which are the most eye-catching features in the L’Oceanografic grounds (or should I say “lakes?”). Unlike most aquariums, which space their exhibits in a maze-like building, L’Oceanografic places each attraction in plain view. Want to visit the marshlands exhibit? Go check out the giant, transparent dome. If you’re interested in watching some dolphins romp around, visit the dolphinarium on the far end of the park. This layout gives L’Oceanografic a sort of amusement park feel, as families can throw on some flip-flops, enjoy the sun, grab some overpriced sweets from vendors, and marvel at vibrant fish.

Aerial Shot of L'Oceanografic Aquarium

Image: Panoramio

When you’re really ready to submerge yourself, so to speak, in marine life, you can descend down any of L’Oceanografic’s nine underwater towers. Glass tunnels allow you to walk along the bottom of the aquariums, giving you a first-hand look at what it would be like to live as a crab scuttling along the bottom of the ocean floor.

And just to be thorough, the L’Oceanografic also has a greenhouse garden, pelicans, ducks, swans, storks, seals, and beluga. It’s really only one or two lions away from hitting zoo territory.

Aquariums at L'Oceanografic

Image: Eric Eggert


World’s Biggest Aquarium Holds World’s Biggest Fish

Posted by on Monday, March 19th, 2012

It’s March 19, and you know what that means: Aquarium Week! Oh, you’ve never heard of aquarium week? That might be because I made the whole thing up. Still, I don’t see why we can’t just go about acting as though it were an official national holiday. I mean, who doesn’t like aquariums? People who hate fun, that’s who.

And the best way to kick start this dubious week-long holiday is by taking a gander at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Despite its somewhat boring name, the Georgia Aquarium is the single largest aquarium in the world, complete with 31,0000 cubic meters of H2O and over 100,000 fish, crustaceans, and similar slimy creatures.

Georgia Aquarium Exterior in Atlanta

Image: Buzzarus

As you might expect from such a massive establishment, the Georgia Aquarium has a wide range of attractions to appeal to just about everybody. They’ve got a dolphin show, a 4D theater (33% cooler than 3D theaters), and even day camps for young kids.

Whale Shark Swimming By

Image: Where Is Yvette

As neat as all of these features are, the aquatic wildlife is the main attraction. They’ve got sea horses, frogs, beluga, manta rays, eels, coral, jellyfish, and pretty much everything else that you could possibly imagine. They’ve even got two whale sharks, which are the largest species of fish on planet Earth. Those of you willing to drop a few bucks can strap on some scuba gear and go diving with these massive creatures. Don’t worry: whale sharks are more whale-like than shark-like in temperament. They only eat krill, algae, and other tiny food bits.

Whale Shark at the Georgia Aquarium

Image: Scholastic Blog

What seems to impact people the most when they visit the Georgia Aquarium is its size. It’s huge, just massively huge. Don’t expect tiny garage-sized pools filled with fish. Enormous pools larger than three-story buildings are the norm at this aquarium, which can help visitors experience the expansiveness and mysterious nature of the world’s oceans. It gives you that tiny and insignificant feeling, along with a heaping dose of childlike wonder.

Dolphin Show at the Georgia Aquarium

Image: News-JournalOnline

Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near Georgia, so I’ll have to put plans to visit Atlanta’s aquarium on the back burner for now. Luckily, if I want to get my aquarium fix I can visit any of their webcams, which transmits a live feed of footage 24/7. My favorite is the otter cam. Adorable, aren’t they? Like swimming puppies.