If you can imagine it, they will build it (or are they just joking?)

CW takes a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the more ambitious projects to have been unveiled in Dubai over the last year and asks, ‘Where are they now?’

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By  Sean Cronin Published  May 7, 2005

If you can imagine it, they will build it (or are they just joking?)|~|P5 body.jpg|~||~|A city built entirely from 200 m high-chess pieces, an underwater hotel and a revolving ski slope are just some of the eyebrow-raising building projects that have been launched in Dubai in the last few years. But not all of these grand designs have managed to make it off the drawing board — or the chessboard for that matter. So CW decided to dust down its archives and find out what has happened to the larger than life projects that not too long ago were making headlines, but now seem more like yesterday’s news. Dubai is home to many of the wackiest construction ideas on Earth. If you are a developer with a weird and wonderful project to be built, then there is really only one place to build it. However for some, the transition from vision to reality has not been an easy one. The promoters of many of the schemes that have made it on to our list of Dubai’s top whacky construction projects insist they are still going concerns. But others haven’t got a snowdome’s chance in hell of being built. For sheer audacity, the number one slot must go to the fantastically-named Chess City. Launched last year by Russian entrepreneur Kirsan Ilumjinov, the US$2.6 billion project included plans for 32 towers with the two ‘King’ towers standing 64 storeys tall. Ilumjinov had a grand vision of a great city painted black and white with chess pieces the size of skyscrapers and where chess players from around the world could gather freely and… well, play chess. Last August, Ilumjinov announced he had chosen Dubai because of its international reputation as a place where imaginative projects come to life. He told reporters: “It is Dubai’s destiny to become the centre of such a magnificent game. Dubai will play host to over 60 million amateur and professional chess followers from around the globe annually. “They will have a permanent venue where they can congregate and play 24 hour championships throughout the year, while some other 500 million lovers of the game will have the chance to follow the excitement via interactive electronic screens. “Chess lovers from around the world will also have the chance to take part in the first Dubai World Chess Cup.” Sadly, a tentative enquiry about the status of the project made this week to the public relations company originally retained by Ilumjinov, revealed that events had conspired to checkmate his plans. Competing with Chess City on our list of whacky construction projects is the Golden Dome — the brainchild of Professor Alexander Wagner. The massive structure was to be the size of several skyscrapers with an elevator or rather an ‘olivator’ which would transport people up the building. Unlike elevators, which move up and down, the ‘olivator’ would spiral around in an ‘o’ shape. Modern magnetic levitation wagons designed to carry up to five automobiles with the occupants in them, would run on the spiral ramp, carrying residents and guests to their desired floor of the building. As madcap as such projects might seem, you should never say never in the wacky world that is the Dubai construction industry.||**||Checkmate — Chess City|~|Chess Body.jpg|~||~|The rationale behind this project seems to be that chess players from around the world share some sort of ethnic bond. They are like a people without a homeland — which is where Chess City comes in. Chess players facing persecuton for their beliefs in other countries would be allowed to visit a gleaming two-tone metropolis in Dubai with skyscrapers fashioned as Kings, Queens, Bishops and Rooks. Surprisingly, no further news on Chess City has been forthcoming, but don’t rule out Downtown Draughts or Buckaroo Borough as possible spin-offs.||**||Domefounded — Crystal Dome|~|dome body.jpg|~||~|The Crystal Dome is the invention of Professor Alexander Wagner and is billed as one of the largest structures ever built. Originally earmarked for Dubai, it is now being linked with Abu Dhabi. By building such a large single building Wagner hoped that the cluttered skyscraper-packed skylines we see today would “no longer be necessary”. He claims the building drew inspiration from the Foster & Partners-designed Reichstag in Berlin and City Hall in London. ‘Olivators’, instead of elevators, would move around the structure rather than up and down it.||**||Sunken dreams — Hydropolis |~|Hydropolis body.jpg|~||~|Unlike some of the other whacky projects here, Hydropolis is officially still a goer. At least that is what the Dubai Tourism Development Company maintains. Construction work on the underwater hotel had been due to start 15 months ago off the Dubai coastline, but that has yet to happen. The main issue which seems to be holding back the project is financing, or rather, lack of it. Hydropolis was originally valued at over US $500 million. If built, it will feature a land station connecting tunnels and a hotel complex in the shape of a submarine. ||**||Eye in the sky — the Wheel|~|Wheel Body.jpg|~||~|Las Vegas-based Voyager Entertainment Holdings last month unveiled plans for a US $150 million observation wheel for Dubai. The structure, we were told, was to be the largest observation wheel anywhere in the world. The news created a buzz of excitement until CW revealed that the company had never made a profit, had unsuccessfully tried to build similar big wheels in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Dallas and owed several million dollars to creditors. Not much has been heard of the project since then, but we will keep you posted.||**||

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