No city expresses the future of both design and hospitality better than Dubai, where the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab hotel helped set the standard for architecturally significant stays when it debuted back in 1999 – with a billion-dollar price tag. Since then, a number of equally impressive properties have opened their doors in both Dubai and neighboring Abu Dhabi. But few are as visually impressive as the new Atlantis the Royal on Palm Island.
The 43-storey hotel opened last week and is located at the end of the Palm directly facing the Persian Gulf and a short walk from the original Atlantis Dubai, which opened almost 15 years ago. Atlantis the Royal Resort and Residences includes nearly 800 guest rooms and some 231 private homes set in a series of angular, geometric boxes stacked on top of each other like futuristic Jenga structures. Designed by global architectural leaders Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) Architects, the hotel is arresting and eye-catching, a sign of design and technological wizardry set against the sparkling sea.
“Atlantis the Royal is about experiencing something you never imagined could be, and the architecture sets this up masterfully,” says Tim Kelly, CEO of Atlantis the Dubai. It is “six towers connected by a 90-foot infinity pool, redrawing Dubai’s skyline and creating a new icon at the Palm.”
KPF was an almost inevitable choice for Kerzner International, the company behind both old and new Atlantis. Along with being responsible for New York’s neighborhood-defining new Hudson Yards project, KPF has designed six of the 12 tallest towers in the world, ranging from the Shanghai World Financial Center to the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea. The firm is also a luxury hotel veteran, responsible for aesthetically inventive properties such as Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood Hong Kong at Victoria Dockside and Rosewood Bangkok.
According to KPF president and design principal James von Klemperer, the new Atlantis was about big ideas. “We were asked to dream big about this project. To create something unique and iconic for Dubai – and when I look at it now, I am amazed at the audacity of the whole enterprise, he says, with its vertical accumulation of outdoor experiences in the pools, outdoor spaces and notables. design features.”
Although completely new and original, the design of the new Atlantis pays homage to the original next door. Atlantis the Royal takes a thoroughly modern approach to classic sculptural towers – stacks of individual blocks each packed with their own set of distinctive amenities. Six incomparable towers are connected by a central sky bridge nearly 300 feet long. Within each block are carved openings that add depth and intrigue to the hotel’s overall design aesthetic, while helping to illuminate the overall property from within. The result: an instant landmark on Dubai’s skyline that is as simple as it is unforgettable. Kerzner describes the design as a recreated version of the classical arches and arcades of Roman aqueducts.
“The building doesn’t really have a front or a back, which is unusual, and this multi-directional aspect of the building is a special aspect of the design,” says von Klemperer. “The way the structure acts as a kind of screen, allowing the view to go both ways, can be seen to refer to the screens of mosques and Islamic architecture.
At $1.6 billion, the materials used in the construction of Atlantis the Royal are as impressive as their looks. The 1,500-foot-long, 550-foot-tall hotel required nearly a million square feet of glass, about 1.6 million square feet of marble and 7.8 million cubic feet of concrete to build.
Many of these materials were used for the resort’s signature Sky Bridge, which serves as a visual—if not literal—anchor for the entire property. Spinning nearly 4,000 feet long, the bridge required some serious engineering acrobatics to maneuver into place. During construction, it was lifted into place at a speed of approximately 20 feet per hour by a team of eight hydraulic jacks. Now the bridge is in full operation, and houses a bunch of restaurants, lounges, pool decks and event spaces.
Like the rest of the hotel, Von Klemperer describes the bridge “as a very entertaining place to walk . . . but also a very serious piece of architecture.” One that is set to become a landmark not just for Dubai, but for the entire Persian Gulf region.