Dubai / Palm Jumeirah / 2001-2006 / The rise of a disintegrated city (I)/ Physical disintegration

Palm Jumeirah was the first and smallest of the three Palm Islands built that quickly established themselves as icons of Dubai’s map. The initial idea of the island was to help transform Dubai into world’s number one luxury tourist destination. The island took on the shape of a palm tree to generate 56 kilometers long coastline to substitute the saturating development on the original mainland coastline (1). Covered by luxury villas, shopping malls, restaurants and hotels, Palm Jumeirah is a city built at sea, it is destined to be a disintegrated city. The island comprises 14 fronds arranged as a palm tree and an encircling crescent island that serves as a breakwater.

Image 1:Aerial Photo of Palm Jumeirah

Being a city constructed at sea, the disconnected land and the inability of travelling through foot naturally singled out the island from mainland areas. Carefully sculpted and clean-cut boundaries, the monorail linking from the mainland to the island, help restrict access and cross-boundary movement, which gives the feeling of being encapsulated to those roaming on the island. On a macro-scale perspective though, the island presents itself as a self-contained community which is detached from the wider city and society altogether.

Image 2:Monorail to Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah

To illustrate, one could examine the design and target audience of the Palm Jumeirah. Take Atlantis Hotel as an example, physically, the hotel is located on the far end of the island which can only be access through boats and monorail (Image 2), the seclusiveness of the Hotel is guaranteed by guarded and locked residential waterfronts to ensure minimal disruption to its occupants and protection of their privacy. Strategically, setting a high price range ensures the most exclusive access to the area by only the rich who could afford the luxury. Combined, the number and class of people entering the Hotel is highly screened and restricted. Moreover, by placing a variety of shops, cuisines and entertainment facilities in it, a contained lifestyle is created to provide a worry-free environment for the Hotel’s prestigious guests. Zooming out to the whole island, different areas of the island are “locked” by different elements (Image 3), the residential areas which requires high level of privacy are locked by guard, while even the more public facilities locating on the trunk, also requires a single care access. The disconnection of the palm island from the mainland is apparent.


Image 3:Accessibility of areas on Palm Jumeirah



1.Nakhell Properties, prod. “Constructing Palm Jumeirah Dubai.” January 26, 2015.

Image reference:

1.Aerial Photo of Palm Jumeirah. In Dubai Palms. October 25, 2014.

2.Accessibility of Areas on Palm Jumeirah. In Atlantis Hotel, The Palm. August 25, 2018.

3.Accessibility of Areas on Palm Jumeirah. In Charter of Dubai: A Manifesto of Critical Urban Transformation. Berlin: Distributed Art Pub Incorporated, 2012.


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