Iconography on the Palm Island – Eclecticism of Architectural Styles

Nested along the coastline of Dubai, the Palm Island houses a whopping amount of facilities, including but not limited to 120 km of sandy beach, 200 villas, more than 40 luxury hotels, shopping complexes, cinemas and a marine park. These building are built in eclectic styles, reflecting the global outlook of the city. To cater for potential buyers, these buildings were design in a way of external appearance. The architect claims that those villas suggest the new approach in residential architecture in Dubai.










Floor Plans of villas on the island (Source : HHCP)


Larry Ziebarth : “we offer 32 architectural styles for their residences ranging from Islamic to Mediterranean to modern.”


Larry Ziebarth, the architect of the project, who has worked for clients such as Disney and Universal Studio, has a flair of translating fantasies to reality. He emphasizes the importance of the project as a representation of “Arab-Eclecticism”, which means that juxtaposition of building styles is readily found. The hybridization of Islamic tradition and modern architectural element forms the eclectic characteristic of the architecture. One of the examples is the Palm sales office on the island, which is the most iconic place in the eyes of visitors, has a mix of styles such as Islamic dome and vernacular motifs.


One could easily compare these hybridized architecture with the “decorated shed”, as coined by Robert Venturi, in a sense that the use of space and structure is to serve the program and ornament is attached independently onto it. The “Disneyesque” nature of those buildings is easy for laymen like tourists to understand, but they also lack the essence of vernacular architecture, such as natural ventilation instead of air-conditioned environment, standardized reinforced concrete structure instead of ramped-earth construction. Therefore, the eclectic architectural styles are simply literal and figurative, providing limited value to the conservation of the diversity of the culture.



Jensen, B. (2007). Dubai : dynamics of bingo urbanism. Aarhus School of Architecture

SMAQ. (2012). Charter of Dubai : a manifesto of critical urban transformation. Jovis

Steffen W. , Katrin B. , Christian S. , Birgit K. (2014). Under construction : logics of urbanism in the Gulf Region. Routledge.


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