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Not that world! That one’s already got a Facebook Group with 3,801 members last time I looked. So that’s all sorted. I’m talking about the other The World. It’s ENDANGERED.

© Nakheel; 2006-ish judging by Burj Khalifa
© Nakheel; 2006-ish, judging from the size of Burj Khalifa

People, listen! One of Nakheel’s lesser-known inventions was a new service charge for the residents of Palm Jumeirah – beach re-profiling. 

Van-Oord-Wins-Palm-Jumeirah-Deal1 You can find out more on but can you imagine why that would be necessary, what it actually entails, and what kind of machine would do that? Yes, either a cutter suction dredger or a trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD). Here’s how a cutter suction dredger works.

Cutter_Suction_Dredge_IHC_Beaver_4510 And here’s what one looks like. It looks like this one is in The Netherlands – the home country of dredging specialists Van Oord.

WEEK 02A What About Green Building

This next image is of a trailing suction hopper dredger of the type that made THE WORLD and DA PALM TRILOGY in the first place.

trailing suction hopper dredger

Check this out, dredgerspotters –  [Cheers pruned.] Here’s a schematic of a TRAILING SUCTION HOPPER DREDGER. It’s all you need to know. 

trailing suction hopper dredger

Sucking up sand from the ocean floor raises a number of issues – most of which I’ll ignore. For example, the Dutch are reverting vast areas of drained land to ocean but at the same time reclaiming vast areas of ocean. ? Me neither. MVRDV are involved. Or were. In 2009. I wonder how it’s coming along?


At this very moment though, The World is in BAD SHAPE and nobody’s taking care of it. So I’ve taken the liberty of coming up with a few ideas. Nakheel, I’m waiting for that call.

1) Let Nature take its course.

Any gardener knows weeds aren’t just plants in the wrong place. They’re clever at finding ground that‘s been disturbed and making themselves at home. Forests don’t have weeds. For all we know, airborne seeds could be creating entire ecosystems on The World right now. We could facilitate this process by bombing – is that the right word? – The World with coconuts. Job done. I know, I know. Coconut palms are the wrong type of palm for these parts. Try telling that to a visualizer.

leeser architects

Once that’s done, all we need do is wait a while and and let Nature or, failing that, the exploitation of property for commercial gain run its course and, before we can say “where shall we go this weekend?”, we’ll have excellent places to visit and picnic or to get away from whatever for a while. Desert Island Safari!


Paying guests could be ferried to lesser islands for glamping with food, drink and Russian belly dancers. Nakheel! Are you listening? What’s the point of buildings? Why bother even building them when there such fun to be had outside?   


2) Island hotels that don’t look all that dissimilar to ships 

So today, when cruise liners are mini cities, why not just convert The World into a flotilla of ship-islands? I’m thinking Battleship Island meets Venice meets Oasis of the Seas. Luxury cruise liner as inspiration for hot new architecture worked once. Burj Al Arab was okay to start with but didn’t go far enough.

Burj Al Arab, photo- Hatim Saleh

It’s time to get back to first principles and re-imagine Burj Al Arab but, this time, with deckchairs and chilled balustrades for beverage resting.


Already in this brainstorming exercise, we’ve got a desert-like Desert Island on one side and an Oasis-Of-The-Seas like oasis on the other. This development markets itself!

3) Floating structures of the oil rig typology

Diehard Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake had the right idea. His Aquapolis project off the coast of Okinawa is little remembered. 1975 was still pre-internet so it no longer exists even as a reference. Besides, in 1975, the world was Post Modern.


But back in the day… Did 1975 really look like this?


4) Rise above it all.

Same as Option 3, but with legs. Okay, so now the sand’s all drifted away. All is not lost. In a few decades or less, there’s going to be a few oil rigs idle so why not relocate and reuse? Win-win no? Such functional and rational structures don’t claim to have any architectural pretensions so by then that’ll surely be both refreshing and novel! Oil rigs have HELIPADS! Oil rigs are living history – they’re what Le Corbusier thought he saw in cruise liners and grain elevators before he went and appropriated them for his own CV.

oil rig close

From there, it’s a short step to link them – as is common practice anyway.

mubarak oil field

Anthony Lau, a former student of the AA in London produced an urban oil rig mash-up for his final year student dystopia project. Lacks kerb appeal. 6/10.

3 FLOOD LONDON c Layout1 (1)

Ditto the Maunsell Forts in the Thames Estuary, of which the most picturesque are the ones at Red Sands off the coast of Kent. The walkways were still intact in 1964 when Ron Heron of Archigram proposed his Walking City.

walking city archigram

Blue sky does not suit them.

Red Sands Forts, Kent

But as a prototype for higher-density offshore development, it’s not so crazy. 

silodam silodam entry

However, the typology has already been realised in far more sellable albeit low-density form. This next image suggests it might be best to raise picturesquely prefab units on stilts and keep that expensive land as pleasure gardens. Clock those cloned coconuts!



sipadan water village

Stick with the program and, in time, you’d have a variant Venice. Not that this is a new idea. Here’s Pre-Columbian Mexico City.

pre-columbian mexico city

5) Artificial islands, but sans sand. 

Location. Location. The following image shows the early model for development on The World but it’s simply not happening fast enough. One doesn’t want to say ‘stalled’. Development of this type now seems – how shall I say? – extravagant in today’s world. A new development model is needed. In 2006, one of The World’s island was gifted to Michael Schumacher. It is not this one, as is commonly believed.


Something a little denser seems called for. But something that doesn’t kill the entire idea of being on an island. Strictly speaking, Palm Jumeirah is peninsulas.


All that beachfront just seems a bit vulnerable if you know what I mean. I’m thinking of something that looks a bit more PERMANENT. I’m thinking build sea walls around the islands and go for it! Okay, a bit of capital is needed but let’s face it, the groundwork has been done. Listen. I have a story. About 1890, coal was discovered on a tiny island off the coast of Nagasaki. They put up sea walls and went for it.


This site or this site will gives you a brief history of the island, known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because that’s what it looked like.


About 1987 the coal ran out. It happens, but fair-play, 1890-1987 isn’t a bad run. This site has some poetic images of an offshore home away from home that was once the most densely populated place on the planet and the height of modernity. Most households had a television even.


There’s a new book out. It has lots of sad then and now pictures.


But the bit about the fossil fuel running out is a bit sad. Were Gunkan-style replicated, the thought ‘But how sustainable is it?’ would never be far away. Perhaps it’s best to forget Gunkanjima the island and go for Gunkanjima the battleship and market it to the security-conscious. You know, a little something for the people who own yachts this big and with armour plating, bulletproof glass, panic rooms and an escape submarine.

eclipse security features

I’m thinking something a little like this.


Possibly a single dwelling or maybe a private hotel to kick off with. It doesn’t really matter. Like Burj Al Arab, it’ll be something for the rest of us to look at. Bright lights on the horizon, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABetter that than this that doesn’t even have a there, let alone a there there.



  • cool. You forgot to mention those English Channel gun forts and Sealandia, of course.

    Interesting in that my bachelor’s thesis project (mentored by the very twisted Raimund Abraham and vetted by Mike Webb of Archi-gram notoriety) was a prototype floating, relocatable habitation. One of these days I must scan those Ektachrome slides . . .

    Nice post, Graham!

    *Curtis B Wayne, AIA* Architect 850 Amsterdam Avenue New York, New York 10025 347.931.5322

    • Thanks Curtis, I did think of the Red Sands Forts but dismissed them as development prototypes despite them being linked buildings on stilts just as much as oil rigs and Indonesian holiday villages. I’ve corrected that unfair omission. But please take a look at the pre-1964 image I posted of the Red Sands Forts and tell me if you think I’m now being unfair by suggesting that Heron’s Walking City was anything less than the original work of genius as the keepers of the Archigram memory maintain. Do you remember what Mike Webb had to say? There seems to be a lot of floating island imagery around these days, much of which has to do with (surprise, surprise) The Maldives – maybe you should hurry up with those slides! Ektachrome – that was the expensive stuff, wasn’t it?

      floating island