Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Dubai Canal - Is The Archive Doomed?

English: dubai Jumeirah beach park
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Work on canal to start within weeks", Gulf News gushes this morning. Signed off last year as a slightly less fancy version, but now with an added crescent, the Dubai Canal project links the Business Bay waterway system out to the Gulf at what is now Jumeirah Beach Park. The canal will cut into the park and also into the margins of nearby Safa Park, one of the oldest and most established areas of calm and relaxation in a city famed for having little time for such things as it embarks on the much more important pursuit of making money.

The mega-project, for that is what these sorts of things are called, is up from last year's announced Dhs1.5 billion price tag and currently stands at Dhs2 billion. That buys a 'sprawling' (according to GN) 80,000 square metres waterfront walkway and leisure area around the canal, four hotels and 450 restaurants. With six kilometres of beachfront and a three kilometre canal, the development is also, and this is the part that chilled me to the bone on the instant, going to 'transform' Safa Park into an 'integrated leisure destination'.

An integrated leisure destination. And just what is it right now? A muddy field? It's lovely right now, is what it is. It's peaceful, charming and relaxing. It doesn't need to be transformed, believe me.

Now many will know that Safa Park is home to a little building, a transformed toilet block in fact, called The Archive. It is a place of which I am immensely fond. It's a lovely idea, a community artspace, café and a growing collection of books on Islamic and Arab architecture, design and art. It sits in the tranquility of Safa Park's green sward, the path to it often takes you past playing schoolchildren or groups of leotard-clad women doing tai-chi. It's a very nice place indeed.

With the passing of The Pavilion (it's being turned into a sales showcase for one of Emaar's new mega-projects, apparently), The Archive is the only free wi-fi welcome to come here and work and meet or do coffee or whatever floats your boat space left in this part of town. And I have the horrible feeling that transforming Safa into an 'integrated leisure destination' isn't going to include leaving some scrubby little 1970s toilet block sitting there to clutter up the views of the 50,000 metre shopping mall.

The designs for the new canal show a much-changed Safa park, with the current lakes giving way to a single lake close to entrance five, extensive replanting and new walkways throughout. Few of the current buildings seem to form part of the new scheme. They might just leave The Archive as it is - irritatingly, Gulf News has slapped a label over its location in its 'infographic', so it's hard to tell. The Archive might be replaced by a new, more modern building with all sorts of facilities. Might. But I can't say it looks good from where I'm standing.

Whatever the outcome, the whole area is going to be a building site for the coming three years. Now the weather's cooling, The Archive comes into its tranquil own. I'll be spending as much time down there while I still can...
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Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Do you truly think this development will happen, after all only last December Dubai was due to get a Falkirk Wheel within two years?

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Also the video camera never lies -

Alexander said...

From what I can tell, the 'Falkirk Wheel' aspect didn't make it past blueprint.

Because what ever flat city needs is a Falkirk Wheel, right?

I've been on the FW, BTW. It's bloody amazing.

Luke said...

Don't let something like flatness get in the way of this project. Surely they can build a replica of the Falkirk topography using labourers armed with a shovel?

Seabee said...

Unless I missed it, there was no reference to parking spaces.

I'm betting it'll be like everwhere else in Dubai - one way in and out and nowhere for anyone to park.

Anonymous said...

It does not help that Gulf News and its likes never analyze anything and simply talk of "Vision". They seem to be using 2008 as a benchmark of how great things were, ignoring the fact that Dubai was better in 2012 than in 2008. Every increase in house prices is cheered; makes sense when 40% of people own their homes, not when 15% or less do so

Ekta said...

I'm usually a supporter of all outlandish Dubai projects but even I can't get behind this one. Safa park is my first memory of growing up as a child in this city. Time to enjoy it while it lasts.

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