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Cox Richardson Architects 


Dubai, UAE


The Dubai waterfront islands are an archipelago of small artificial islands constructed in the shape of a world map, located in the waters of the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The World Islands are composed mainly of sand dredged from Dubai's shallow coastal waters, and are one of several artificial island developments in Dubai.


The initial construction began in 2003 where SESL Australia were contracted to work on the soil landscape concept designs. As a part of this endeavour, we also developed a method and specifications for the desalination of the marine dredged sands used to construct this landscape.


The Islands in the project range from 1.4 to 4.2 hectares (3.5 to 10.4 acres) in area. Distances between islands average 100 metres. The project was unveiled in May of 2003 and dredging of the marine sands begun roughly 4 months later.


This major construction was created using 321,000,000 cubic metres of sand and 386 million tons of rock that was dredged from the coastal regions of Dubai & displaced into the shore front to form the sand banks. The Limestone rocks used to support the structures were sourced from multiple quarries around Dubai.

dubai islands.jpeg

SESL conducted a scientific review of the natural soil resources available for the project, with recommendations for the soil and landscape work concepts. We also provided strategies for the provision of soil reconstruction. 

Detailed within the review, several recommendations were made to maximise the feasibility of project success. The location of this man-made landscape came with high erosion potential due to it's constant exposure to coastal currents. 

To prevent the erosion of the islands, a water permeable geo-textile was added to the breakwaters lowest layer. 1 tonne of the limestone sits on top of the sand, and another two layers of larger boulders cap and separate each structure. Additionally, the breakwater was designed to include two 100m openings on either side to eliminate stagnation in the islands deep and narrow channels. These openings allow for water to circulate completely every 13 days.

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