Tag Archives: Dubai

Iconic Cruise liner Reopens in Dubai as Luxury Floating Hotel

Renowned 1960s British vessel, Queen Elizabeth 2, has been docked in Port Rashid since 2008 after decades of voyage. Last Wednesday, it opens her doors yet again as a brand new, luxury hotel floating in Port Rashid, Dubai. Though there were plans to remodel the ship into a luxury property immediately, delayed the project was delayed by the global financial crisis. Finally after a decade, the 963-foot cruise liner will welcome guests again.

The hotel holds a full 13-deck of dining and entertainment, and a total of 224 rooms and suites. There are 13 types of room available, with the basic cabins offering a cozy 180 square feet of space, designed with plenty of dark wood.

A duplex room at the Queen Elizabeth 2

Royal suites sit at a spacious 800 square feet, complete with a private bathtub, private dining room and terrace. Named after the Queen’s mother and grandmother, these 2 exclusive rooms will be booked ‘by invitation only’.

Rooms featuring the original portholes abroad the hotel.

While the liner has been upgraded with technology and modern features, there were also restoration efforts for the original design features like the portholes and period artwork and furniture.

The ship even retains the names of its 13 restaurants for a distinct British feel: an English pub called the Golden Lion, historical bar The Chart Room, cabaret lounge The Grand Lounge, and Queens Grill that offers a British menu that includes many of the same dishes served during its maiden voyage in 1969.

A refurbished bar is ready to receive guests aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2

The new QE2 has a movie theatre and a museum showcasing the vessel’s history. The latter, called the Heritage Exhibition, presents the ship’s iconic history that traces back to decades ago since its service as a war ship during the Falklands War, to when she became Cunard’s luxury leisure cruise ship.

Other facilities include a luxury spa and pool deck, as well as the perennial Dubai favorite: a shopping arcade.

The grand opening is scheduled for October this year. Right now, you can book a basic cabin online for as low as 400 AED (US$110), though royal suites sell for as much as 25,000 AED (US$6,800).

An Insider’s Guide to Dubai

No one knows a city quite like her people. Read on for an exclusive insider guide to discover Dubai’s hidden gems, explore the vibrant culture and enjoy the authentic city like a local.

Explore Dubai

  • Experience Dubai’s vibrant beach culture and seek the various unique coastlines. Despite its prime location between Dubai Marina and Barj Al Arab, the Black Palace Beach offers a serene, secluded. With many neighbouring royal summer palaces, the beach promises crystal blue waters and a stunning sunset views over the Palm Jumeirah.
  • Uncover a piece of local history or savour traditional delights to experience the old-world charm of Dubai. Visit the Gold Souq, lined with bespoke pieces; the Textile Souq, filled with rolls of fine silk and embellished fabrics; and the Spice Souq, offering a sensory overload with aromas of prized spices. Wander through the endless Arabian souks and marketplaces and remember to try the abra – a traditional transport that costs just AED1 a ticket.


Feasting in the Emirate

  • Weekend brunches are hot favourites, as the city’s diverse communities gather to celebrate the weekend. Usually held on Fridays and Saturdays, these brunches range from communal, party-worthy gatherings, to more relaxed, intimate meals. Some family-oriented brunches even include activities for the children. There are various platforms that offer services and deals for brunches, such as the award-winning Mr and Mrs Brunch website.
  • For traditional treats, head to Al Reef Bakery, a staunch favourite among locals. Located in the Satwa area, savour Lebanese sweets, including baklava, knafe, maamoul and kaak.
  • While gahwa (Arabic coffee) is essential in Emirati hospitality, the Indian masala tea is also a traditional drink popular at casual gatherings. Famously known as karak chai, it is a sweet milk tea boiled over low flame with black tea leaves and spices – often cardamon, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. A perfect cup to start and end the day, sample a steaming brew down by Kite Beach at FiLLi Tea & Café, a pioneer of home-grown karak chai.


Experience Dubai’s Old-World Charm

  • Dubai Creek is the heart of trade, the origin of Dubai’s roots. Meander past the wind towers and coral buildings of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, painstakingly restored to their original glory with traditional materials and methods. Take your perfect shots at this ancient district, with low-rise buildings adorned with Arabesque designs.
  • For some art appreciation, head over to XVA, a unique art gallery that houses a boutique hotel and café. There are many other galleries in the area, from calligraphy to modern art. Don’t miss a trip to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), where guests are encouraged to inquire about the culture – however ‘sensitive’.
  • For an insight into Emiratis’ enduring love for camels, head for a camel race that take place throughout Dubai from October and April. In the cooler months, these sandy races boast an avid following on Friday or Saturday mornings. Dubai’s biggest track is Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, home of the Dubai Camel Racing Club. Located near the city with prizes of tens of thousands of dirhams, it attracts camel owners from across the UAE.

  • Travel back in time at Hatta Heritage Village, far from the city centre at the heart of the mountainous Hatta region. After its restoration in 2001, the village now holds 17 houses, two castles and a fortress. Immerse in the traditional rural life surrounded by mountains, with cultural artefacts and informative content planned across the village.
  • Head to Al Qudra Lakes and discover Dubai’s sprawling desert oasis. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and explore the beautiful lakes sprawled across 10 hectares of Saih Al Salam Desert landscape. Take a leisure ride around the Cycling Track to watch the vibrant wildlife, including 170 species of birds and animals such as desert foxes and oryx. Tuck into a relaxing picnic after and catch the splendid sunset.


About Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism)

With the ultimate vision of positioning Dubai as the world’s leading tourism destination and commercial hub, Dubai Tourism’s mission is to increase the awareness of Dubai among global audiences and to attract tourists and inward investment into the emirate.

Dubai Tourism is the principal authority for the planning, supervision, development and marketing of Dubai’s tourism sector. It markets and promotes the Emirate’s commerce sector, and is responsible for the licensing and classification of all tourism services, including hotels, tour operators and travel agents. Brands and departments within the Dubai Tourism portfolio include Dubai Convention and Events Bureau, Dubai Calendar, and Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment. In addition to its headquarters in Dubai, Dubai Tourism operates 20 offices worldwide.


Zeno Malaysia | O: +603 2283 5922

Nicole Lim | E: [email protected]| M: +6012 521 0190

Emily Chin | E: [email protected]| M: +6017 687 5532

Dubai Opens World’s Tallest Hotel, Again

Think of Dubai, visitors will remember the city-state that boasts opulent shopping malls, numerous luxury resorts and even an indoor ski resort. Being one of the seven sheikhdoms that makes up the energy-rich United Arab Emirates within the GCC region, Dubai is always pulsating with energy as it goes on a never-ending quest to break records. With the record breaking Burj Khalifa, standing at 828m (half a mile) high, it is famed for its spacious outdoor observation deck, offering a stunning 360-degree view of the city’s skyline.

With Dubai’s plans already running in the pipeline and gearing itself towards the global trade expo fair 2020, the country is aiming to attract over 20 million unique visitors annually by 2020. A few of the programmes launched by Expo 2020 Dubai is to fund, accelerate and promote creative solutions that will improve lives as well as to build up its economy growth through job creations from the commercial opportunities it triggers.

Dubai Opens World’s Tallest Hotel, Again

With the recent announcement of the opening of the “world’s new tallest hotel” in the metropolitan Dubai, the gleaming 75-storey Gevora Hotel, standing at 356m tall is pipping another towering landmark in the city for the title. The new Gevora Hotel is situated within view of its predecessor. According to Emirati daily The National, the Gevora’s first guests are expected on Monday.

A major transit hub situated on transcontinental air routes, Dubai airport was the world’s busiest for international passengers in 2017 for the fourth year running, with 88.2 million travellers.


The Bulgari Resort and Hotel Dubai

The Bulgari Resort and Hotel Dubai

Located at the pristine Jumeira area in the centre of Dubai, the resort and hotel is just a short drive from many of the city’s hotspots. With 101 hotel rooms and suites and 20 hotel villas, all the rooms and suites are complemented by the large balconies, offering guests expansive views of the Dubai skyline.

Bulgari Suite Bathroom – Sunset View

The interiors and exteriors of the hotel rooms have been created to emulate the colour, texture and feel of  the luxury jewel brand Bulgari. Styled with European inspiration, the customised design details extend from the marble bathtubs and the sculpted door handles to the Italian furniture.

The furnishings in each hotel room are carefully selected and incorporated into the living space to form a unified, seamless fashion that echo the best of both Italian design and lifestyle culture.

Hotel amenities include the 1,700 sqm Bvlgari Spa, state-of-the-art fitness centre with Workshop Gymnasium and 25 m indoor pool with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the sea, giving guests the sense of ‘relaxing on the beach’ which can be quite a feast for the soul.

The Bulgari Resort & Residences Dubai is another milestone for the Bulgari Hotels and Resorts Collection and represents a tribute to the importance of the Middle East market for the Bulgari brand” – Jean-Christophe Babin, Chief Executive Officer of Bulgari

Il Bar

II Ristorante

For an epicurean feast, indulge in the Italian simplicity and flavours with sumptuous offerings prepared by Bulgari Hotels & Resorts’ own Michelin starred Italian chef. There is the Il Bar located on the same level, serving a myriad of signature beverages, and the outdoor terrace of the bar has a sweeping view of the Arabian Gulf.

Beach Villa-Night View

For corporate events, intimate family gatherings or lavish weddings, the resort consists a 360 sqm BVLGARI Ballroom located in the Yacht Club with a magnificent sea view. For guests who relish luxuriating in a private country garden-style space with the charm of old Italy can hop over to the secret lemon-tree garden located at the Resort, La Limonaia.

BVLGARI Il Cioccolato boutique

Finally, hotel guests can also shop for gifts in The BVLGARI Il Cioccolato boutique such as Bulgari Le Gemme perfume collection and items by international designers to complete the Resort experience.


Bugatti opens its world’s largest luxury hypercar showroom in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is the single biggest market for Bugatti‘s hypercars so where better to build the marque’s biggest official dealership to date? Located on the Sheikh Zayed Road, the showroom is impossible to miss despite the exclusivity of the address or of neighbouring structures, thanks to an architectural recreation of the marque’s famous horseshoe grille that serves as a four metre high arch over the plate glass doorway.

The space occupies over 240 square metres, a huge area for a dealership dealing in a single model. However, as the United Arab Emirates boasts more Bugatti owners per capita than any other region in the world, the space, created and managed by Al Habtoor Motors, needs to be something special.

“A location of this significance and appeal for our brand has earned a superlative showroom,” said Dr. Stefan Brungs, Bugatti‘s global head of sales, marketing and customer service. “Many Bugatti customers who have been the closest and most loyal ambassadors of our brand for many years live in this region.”

Indeed, Al Habtoor Motors is the world’s most successful official Bugatti dealer. It maintains 55 Bugatti Veyrons for their owners and is now in the process of honouring 30 local orders for its replacement, the 1500hp multi-million-dollar Chiron.

“The UAE is always striving to be the best. Our target was, therefore, to bring the largest, most beautiful Bugatti showroom to the heart of Dubai,” said Sultan Al Habtoor, President of Al Habtoor Motors.

The experience is meant to be akin to a private art viewing while ordering a bespoke suit. Clients are welcomed into a lounge furnished with unique Bugatti furniture where they work through every conceivable option and element of personalization they would like to see on their Chiron, before examining the car itself and taking in art and design drawn from Bugatti’s rich heritage.

Such attention to detail or to personalization may seem extreme, but the average Bugatti owner also has a fleet of other equally exotic and rare automobiles and every step must be taken to make the Chiron seem like a true object of desire. “Some of [our UAE clients] are proud owners of car collections with even several Bugatti super sports cars,” said Dr Brungs, “The new showroom will not only be the perfect platform for the Chiron but also honours our special customers.”

The Chiron will be capped at exactly 500 examples. Bugatti has confirmed that over half have already been sold and that to date, 26% of all orders taken have been from clients living in the UAE.

Dubai Culture Village, UAE: Jameel Arts Centre will open its doors in 2018

Rendering of the entrance to Jameel Arts Centre Dubai | © Serie

Rendering of the entrance to Jameel Arts Centre Dubai | © Serie

Plans have been revealed for the Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai, a major new art institution that will showcase artists from the region and beyond. Due to open in 2018, the Arts Centre will be located at the tip of Dubai‘s Culture Village, overlooking the Dubai Creek, where it will house more than 1,000 square meters of gallery space as well as a roof terrace, an outdoor sculpture area, a cafe, a restaurant and a bookshop.

Drawing from its own Jameel Art Collection, the venue will also present solo and group shows and undertake collaborations and partnerships with local, regional and international artists.

UK-based firm Serie is behind the new building, which was conceived as a series of boxes joined by a one-story-high waterfront colonnade. A series of courtyards located between the boxes and the colonnade offer spaces for visitors to rest in between galleries, while the colonnade itself serves as a social space meant to enliven the waterfront.

Interior rendering of Jameel Arts Centre Dubai | © Serie

Interior rendering of Jameel Arts Centre Dubai | © Serie

Each courtyard will be landscaped to represent a distinct desert environment, with rare plants sourced from around the world.

The non-profit contemporary art venue comes from Art Jameel, an organisation supporting arts and heritage in the Middle East. In addition to announcing the new Arts Centre, Art Jameel also just announced a long-term partnership that will enable that museum to acquire works by modern and contemporary artists from the Middle East.

Ahead of the Jameel Arts Centre’s opening, Art Jameel has opened a temporary Project Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, whose inaugural exhibition features a five-channel video by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme.

Middle East property: Dubai Harbour megaproject to expand maritime industry

Dubai has long been known for its mega projects that have resulted in stunning architectural feats such as the Jumeirah Beach Residence and the Palm Jumeriah. In approximately four years, the Gulf emirate of Dubai will be able to add the largest marina in the Middle East and North Africa to its lineup. Developed by Meraas Holding, the Dubai Harbour is said to be able to handle 1,400 vessels.

Apart from the impressive berth range, the 20 million square foot marina that is to be situated between the beach residence and Palm Jumeirah, will include a 135-metre Dubai Lighthouse. Serving multiple purposes, the lighthouse will be home to a luxury hotel, and observation deck. Alongside these developments, the marina will feature a 150,000 square foot cruise liner that is capable of handling 6,000 passengers and larger yachts of up to 85 meters.

In addition to the lifestyle options, the marina will house three helipads and several water stations. The smooth façade of the lighthouse will serve as a screen for high-resolution projections and light shows. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai unveiled the grand plans yesterday. The project will enhance the long-standing relationship Dubai has with the maritime industry in the region and will be completed in phases.

World Travel Awards 2016 best beach and spa resorts: Where to stay in Dubai, Bora Bora and more

As the whirlwind that goes under the name of 2016 is closing, it’s time look back on the best luxury resorts that the year has had to offer. From a Polynesian paradise, to a Sicilian getaway, or maybe an Aladdin-inspired escape, the folks at the World Travel Awards (the Academy Awards equivalent of tourism) has selected the World’s Leading Beach and Spa Resort, with some notable nominations. Here, we visit some of the shortlisted resorts’ and their most luxurious rooms.

WINNER: Apartment Suite at Le Royal Meridien, Dubai (Price upon request)

Le Royal Meridien of Dubai was crowned the title of World’s Leading Beach and Spa Resort. It’s also located within walking distance to the JBR Walk – for that luxury shopping fix, obviously. The beachfront resort’s dining options aren’t too shabby either, with choices such as Richard Sandoval’s Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen + Lounge and Pan Asian-serving Zengo.

Le Royal Meridien Apartment Suite - Living Room

Le Royal Meridien – Apartment Suite – Living Room

The resort’s Apartment Suite is 233 sqm space offering a panoramic view of the Arabian Gulf and the resort’s garden. It has two bedrooms and comes with a fully-equipped pantry, marble floorings, flat screen TV, and spa/fitness. Spacious and sophisticated, the suite can very well be your cozy home during the holidays.

Le Royal Meridien Apartment Suite - Bedroom

Le Royal Meridien – Apartment Suite – Bedroom

NOMINEE: End of Pontoon Overwater Bungalows at Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa (Price upon request)

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort - Aerial View

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort – Aerial View

Situated at Motu Tevairoa, one of the islets of Polynesia, Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa offers a splendid view of Mount Otemanu and the turquoise lagoon. This is your go-to for an escape to a secluded island paradise, with the To’A Nui coral nursery in its vicinity and the Manea Spa surrounded with a pond of lily pads within the property. It’s also located not very far from the airport.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort - Overwater Bungalow

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort – Overwater Bungalow

The rooms comes in form of bungalows that float on top of turquoise water. The best bungalow the resort has to offer is the End of Pontoon Overwater Bungalows. It has their standard bungalow amenities: 53 sqm, king-size bed, spacious bathroom, outdoor terrace, sun deck – elevated with a private panoramic view of the iconic Polynesian lagoon. And trust us when we say that the scenery is worth it. The experience also comes with a personalized check-in, snorkeling equipments, a bottle of 75cl Chassenay d’Arce and flower bouquets to welcome you to paradise.

NOMINEE: Presidential Suite of Il Castello at Forte Village, Italy (Price upon request)

Hotel Castello Presedential Suite

Hotel Castello Forte Village – Presedential Suite – Living Room

The Sardinian resort of Forte Village is a complex of top-quality hotels, with 5 five-starred hotels, 3 four-starred hotels and 8 luxury villas encompassing the 47 hectare property. Sitting on the stretch of white sands, the resort is also surrounded by gorgeous gardens. The unique climate of the location gives a literal 300 days of summer from March to November. It also offers a wide range of facilities for every member of the family, such as an relaxing moment in the Acquaforte Thalasso Spa or children activities areas. Fun fact: Forte Village is also the world’s leading green resort.

Hotel Castello Presedential Suite

Hotel Castello Forte Village – Presedential Suite – Bedroom and Terrace

The top suite of Forte Village’s five-starred hotel Il Castello would be the Presidential Suite. It’s a 110 sqm open-space plan room that comes with another 150 sqm terrace that comes with a private jacuzzi pool and a tremendous view. Your stay will also include a British-style butler to lessen those holiday hassles. The overall experience is intimate, cozy, and luxurious.

NOMINEE: King Premium Panoramic Overwater Bungalow at Hilton Moorea Resort and Spa, Polynesia (Price upon request)


Immerse in the Polynesian culture at the Hilton Moorea Resort and Spa. Positioned at the heart-shaped ‘Island of Love’ 7 minutes away from Tahiti by plane, the resort offers a truly idyllic island experience. You can swim among the friendly sharks and rays at the reef, go on a safari excursion, have a treat under the stars at Toatea Creperie and Bar, or simply unwind at the Moorea Lagoon Spa.


Overwater Bungalow

From the row of its world-class bungalow suites, the King Premium Panoramic Overwater Bungalow comes on top, thanks to the majestic unobstructed view of the lagoon. It comes with a marble bathroom with a claw-footed tub, a king-sized bed, private sun deck, and a 37-inch TV. The 62 sqm suite also has a glass-floor viewing panel where you can see the fishes swimming under your feet.

NOMINEE: Grand Imperial Suite at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai (Price upon request)

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray -Grand Imperial Suite - Bedroom

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray -Grand Imperial Suite – Bedroom

Inspired by royal residences of the Ottoman era, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is an oppulent 5-starred property located at the west crescent of Palm Jumeirah. Which means, it’s situated in one of Dubai’s most prime locations, with views of the Arabian Gulf and the city’s spectacular skyline. The accommodation comes with a private beach, 8 dining experiences to choose from, 8,000 sqm Talise Ottoman Spa, and services fit for a royal.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray - Grand Imperial Suite - Bathroom

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray – Grand Imperial Suite – Bathroom

The grandeur of the Grand Imperial, the resort’s most luxurious room, is something to be taken seriously. The 310 sqm space features a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, designer furniture, exterior ceramics from the ancient town of Iznik of Western Anatolia, a private terrace, fully-equipped kitchen and 42-inch television at the living room. However, our favorite part of the room is the lavish bathroom we would love to spend hours in. The centerpiece of the bathroom is a Turkish marble tub, surrounded by Ottoman-style interiors, gold pillars, and topped of with a breathtaking view from the side window. To add on the luxury points, the bathroom also has a separate rain shower, a private sauna, and comes with Lorenzo Villoresi amenities.

Museum in Dubai: Concrete space to host inaugural Syrian art exhibition in March

The news was announced by Alserkal Avenue, the arts and culture district in Al Quoz, Dubai, where Concrete is located, and which conceptualized the new venue. The multi-purpose event space is designed to host large-scale art exhibitions as well as fashion and film events, among others.

The venue’s inaugural exhibition, “Syria: Into the Light,” will open on March 9 and will showcase works from the Atassi Foundation, a non-profit initiative founded specifically to celebrate Syrian art. The show will feature works by artists including Toufiq Tarek, Fateh Moudarres, Youssef Abdelke and Omran Younes; a program of talks, film screenings and commissions is also planned.

OMA, founded by Pritkzer Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, designed Concrete as an adaptable venue with multiple configurations such that it can host a variety of events. The 600-square-meter space features double-height ceilings, movable walls that rotate or slide and a translucent front facade with sliding doors that can create a seamless indoor-outdoor connection.

Alserkal Avenue has been raising its profile in recent years; established in 2007, it added a programming arm in 2015 that works with regional artists to produce events for local, regional and international audiences. An artist residency is expected to launch next year.

Concrete’s opening will come just ahead of Dubai Art Week, a week-long annual event that highlights the city’s art scene and runs next year from March 13 to 18.

“Syria: Into the Light” runs March 9 – April 3, 2017.

Invest in These: 6 Floating Villas

Flying over the Maldives in a prop plane, islands appear like green pebbles in a blue-green sea. From above, constellations of resorts are also visible, their villas often snaking out from the edge of the land, hugging the sides of boardwalks and perched atop wooden stilts.

Not all villas are tethered to docks, however. At some new resorts, the bungalows have been designed to float on the Indian Ocean. One such project is named The Ocean Flower and includes 185 floating villas arranged in the form of a Maldivian flower. Designed by Dutch architecture firm Waterstudio, the two level villas have three bedrooms, private plunge pools and are priced from around $2.5 million.

The Ocean Flower

The Ocean Flower

“What we tried to do with our office is to take the difference between a normal house and house boat and make them the same,” says Waterstudio founder Koen Olthius. He began designing floating homes in the Netherlands, but now exports the concept to worldwide locations.

The Ocean Flower forms part of The 5 Lagoons, a master-planned resort in North Male atoll, a 20-minute boat ride from the capital of Male that is a joint venture between Dutch Docklands International and the Maldives Government. Waterstudio is also designing the Amillarah, another phase of The 5 Lagoons that will feature10 floating private islands arranged in an archipelago configuration. Each will have a private beach, pool, greenery and a jetty to moor yachts.

In the Maldives, where natural islands are small, scarce and vulnerable to tides and rising water levels, resort developers are progressively turning to floating architecture. “The concept suits [the Maldives] perfectly,” says Dymitr Malcew, a Singapore-based architect. He designed a luxurious floating home concept for a French developer in 2012 and has since received inquires from resort developers and private investors around the world, including the Maldives.

Malcew Floating Homes, Maldives

Malcew Floating Homes, Maldives

Malcew’s house concept features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a terrace and full-height windows that provide optimal daylight and views. The home is built on a floating platform that can be easily moved and electricity is supplied via solar panels, or a network if it is docked at a marina. It also has a water purification system. “I was inspired by the automotive and luxury yacht markets rather than a typical architectural approach,” Malcew explains.

The floating house concept is not confined to the Maldives, however. In Thailand, resorts like The Float House River Kwai Resort in Kanchanaburi features floating villas made of teak wood and bamboo, each having a private balcony and pier. Thai design firm Agaligo Studio has also introduced a modern take on the floating vernacular with the X-Float, a series of floating resort villas on the River Kwai that are made from lightweight steel framing clad with fiber cement siding and plywood. The units are all oriented to maximize river views while also shielding the intense tropical sun.

Hong Kong-based consultancy BMT Asia Pacific has also created floating home concepts it likens to a ‘stationary yacht,’ designed to create novel experiences for holidaymakers. The Sea-Suite debuted in 2014 with three models – Floating Lodge, Houseboat, and Beach Cabin, each of which use an egg-shaped mold as the basis for transportable, easily adaptable and nautically minded lodging designs. The newer SeaScape edition features expansive 40-foot decks on a triangular floor plan. Each villa is customizable and can be expanded with the option to add on a variety of units, including a sun deck or covered pool, making the floating resort up to 1,800 sq. ft. in size. The design also features an underwater bedroom housed in a 13-foot diameter acrylic column that creates an aquarium effect with 360-degree views of marine life.

The Floating Seahorse

The Floating Seahorse

A new project in the Middle East unveiled in December also proposes an underwater bedroom. Kleindienst Group’s new development is called The Floating Seahorse and features a collection of floating villas off the coast of Dubai. The structures are designed like unpowered boats and have three levels: a submerged master bedroom and bathroom designed to offer views of the surrounding marine life, a main level with a kitchen, dining area and deck, and an upper level that has an informal bed, kitchenette and glass-bottomed Jacuzzi. Developers sold around 60 units when the first models went on sale. The remaining seahorses are priced from $2.8 million.

“We are seeing a trend worldwide, where High Net Worth Individuals are looking not only for a penthouse, but that private island feeling,” says Koen Olthius. In his home country of the Netherlands, 50 percent of the population lives below sea level, and the Dutch have spent centuries constructing dikes, pumps, and drainage systems to keep the encroaching North Sea at bay. Floating houses have provided an alternate solution – as far back as the 17th century, barges were repurposed as homes.

The Floating Seahorse, Interior

The Floating Seahorse, Interior

In recent years, floating structures have again grown in popularity, particularly in the face of extreme weather. The obvious advantage is that they move vertically with fluctuations in water levels caused by tides, heavy rainfall or other flooding. They are also easily relocated.

But beyond the pragmatic reasons, floating homes are also appealing to prospective residents because they afford an intimate proximity to water, and a feeling of openness, with light and views that are more akin to a boat than a house. A ‘normal’ house requires a large margin with the water level to prevent flooding. With a floating home, openings in the façade can safely be placed just 35 cm above the water level.

In the United States, floating homes are most common on the West Coast, particularly in Seattle where Lake Washington, Lake Union, and The Locks offer sheltered water edge conditions ideal for floating structures. Standing inside the floating home is an incredible feeling, says Eric Cobb, a Seattle-based architect who works on floating homes. “When you are on the first floor, you are maybe a foot off the water level and it feels like you are on a boat. It’s an amazing experience to have a sliding glass door off your bedroom and the water right there.”

SeaScape Luxury FLoating Villas Concept

SeaScape Luxury FLoating Villas Concept

In recent years floating homes in Seattle have become increasingly regulated due to their impact on the shoreline. “They are big, they create massive shaded areas and it impacts eco systems,” says Cobb. Municipal regulations now prevent the development of new floating home slips, although the resale market is thriving.

Koen Olthius at Waterstudio believes such municipal regulations reflect an “old-fashioned way of thinking” and stands in the way of allowing floating homes to proliferate into the mainstream market and create what he believes is a more sustainable housing model. “The experience we have in Holland makes us experts in how large and small foundations can be,” he says.

Many architects argue that since floating systems are adaptable and can be moved at short notice without leaving scars on the environment, this makes them a more sustainable and durable way to build. BMT’s SeaScape model, for example, is designed for offshore locations around small islands where a minimal footprint is key. The overall power load is also mitigated by the option of installing solar panels on the roof, as well as by natural ventilation. “While we haven’t specifically focused on green features in the design, a number of them are intrinsic to a waterside location — improved natural ventilation from sea breezes and temperature moderation through the hull from seawater,” says Sichard Colwill, Managing Director of BMT Asia Pacific.

Amillarah Private Islands, Dubai

Amillarah Private Islands, Dubai

The concept also provides a solution for humanitarian causes, particularly in low-lying, flood-prone regions. Luxury developers have funded much of the recent innovations to floating homes, but Olthius says a new wave of demand is coming from land-strapped and flood-prone cities from the Ukraine to China.

In the UK, design firms have proposed similar typologies as a means to deal with flood-stricken areas of the nation and as a solution to London’s housing shortage. Baca Architects recently developed a buoyant home for an NLA competition to address the capital’s housing crisis. The project aims to install prefabricated floating housing on disused space along the 50 miles of rivers and canals in Greater London, as well as the 150 hectares of additional “bluefield” space in its docklands, marinas and basins.  For Koen Olthius, the transition to water homes is simply a matter of plugging them into the existing grid. The demand for floating homes is clear, he says, now it’s a matter of negotiating with municipalities and insurance companies and educating them on the long life span of water homes, and their low maintenance costs.

The Float House River Kwai Resort, Thailand

The Float House River Kwai Resort, Thailand

If sea levels begin to rise as predicted, municipalities may have no choice but to embrace the floating home model. For the moment, some countries are more open to the idea than others. Waterstudio has spent the past two years working on a project in Florida, but have encountered considerable resistance from the local community. “If I have an empty space of land, you understand that I can build there, but if I have a piece of water, everyone complains,” Olthius says. “In the US people have a stronger feeling of rights and of privacy compared to other parts of Europe or Asia. These homes can benefit the whole community.”

However, even if there isn’t a dramatic rise in sea levels, Olthius says he is committed to building on water. “We are concerned with urbanization, with the price of land, the need for land,” he says. “Water gives us three things: space; safety and flexibility, and a very short response time to changes we cannot foresee.”

Story Credits

This article was first published in Palace Magazine.

8 Urban Residences with Sky Gardens

A private garden, a backyard with trees and flowers, these are luxuries that city dwellers must sacrifice for the conveniences of modern urban living. At least, that has been the prevailing notion. However, some of today’s architects view the matter quite differently.

“There is a huge disconnect between how we live in our cities and what we need, as human beings, for quality of life,” says Eran Chen, Founder and Executive Director at ODA studio in New York. “I don’t think that we should be forced to choose between enduring life in the city, or escaping to suburban areas.”

East 44th Street in New York City with a view of One World Trade Center and Sky Garden Terrace

East 44th Street in New York City with a view of One World Trade Center and Sky Garden Terrace

Chen’s solution to this disconnect is to combine the two typologies. His studio recently released plans for East 44th Street, a slender residential tower in Midtown Manhattan that has open floors for sky gardens. By “stretching” the building vertically beyond its original program, the studio was able to create gaps, 16 feet in height, between every two floors. The gaps in the building will contain full floor sculptural gardens equal to the footprint of the building and will be directly accessible from each apartment. In other words, each 2,800 sq. ft. apartment will have 1,400 sq. ft. of open private garden. The tower will contain 44 residential units in total, with one, two or three-bedroom layouts and a duplex penthouse.

Other Manhattan studios are also inverting the traditional sealed box approach to tower design. Nearby on East 37th street, a slim residential tower proposed by Perkins + Will, will have built-in parks and an outdoor cinema.  The concept for the 700 foot tower, which features four open-air sky parks at various heights, was to take the urban fabric of Greenwich Village, where row houses will have a small park at the end of the block, and tip it vertically. “It creates this balance of your own private apartment and shared outdoor greenery that becomes almost like that park at the end of the street, except in a vertical way,” says Robert Goodwin, design principal at Perkin + Will.

Designing for dense future cities that will house an increasing number of inhabitants raises a number of questions. “How do you create livability in a dense city?” Goodwin says. “How do you make tall buildings that people really want to live in?”  This is a challenge that confronts architects around the world. Today, many design innovative new projects that aim to achieve densification without compromising on quality of life.

Cloud Corridor, Los Angeles

Cloud Corridor, Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, Chinese studio MAD has designed plans for Cloud Corridor, a high-density building with nine interconnected residential towers, that turns disparate neighborhoods into a vertical village with public spaces and gardens in the sky. The tower is meant to address the concern of suburban sprawl and also aims to connect people and nature. “The garden patios and courtyards provide a lush environment amid the surrounding urban density, and provide a retreat from the everyday among nature,” the studio says. The elevated corridors and multi-level garden patios shape the city skyline and provide viewing platforms for residents to overlook the city below and the natural landscapes beyond.

In Dubai, a new project called Suites in the Skai has 60 storeys with more than 500 apartments featuring their own sky gardens. Some also have swimming pools. Hussam Abdelghany, the associated design director at Atkins Global, says the sky gardens at the tower, which is due for completion in 2017, will increase shade and encourage wind penetration, producing a microclimate that will make the gardens a pleasant experience for most of the year, even when it is hot.

Diamond Lotus, Ho Chi Minh City

Diamond Lotus, Ho Chi Minh City

In Vietnam, studio Vo Trong Nghia Architects recently unveiled plans for the Diamond Lotus project, three 22 storey towers located on a finger of land between two rivers outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The project, which includes 720 residences, will be shielded from the tropical sunlight by swathes of bamboo and are connected via a planted roof garden that can be accessed from each apartment. “The connected roof provides the residents with a large green space, which rarely occurs in the city,” the studio said. While other developments are expediting the loss of greenery in the city, the architects say the green bridge and green façade of Diamond Lotus are not only a dedication to the comfort of inhabitants, but also “a contribution to the landscape, appearing as a green screen in the city.”

Bosco Verticale

Bosco Verticale

Allowing city dwellers to experience greenery and outdoor space is one factor motivating architects to incorporate sky gardens. But there are other advantages too. One of the first residential towers to incorporate sky gardens, Bosco Verticale, was designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri as part of the rehabilitation of the historic district of Milan between Via De Castillia and Confalonieri. The scheme comprises two towers, both of which incorporate trees, and one which houses 400 condominium units. In addition to providing residents with their own leafy oasis, the trees help to mitigate smog, produce oxygen and moderate building temperatures in winter and summer. The plants also attenuate noise.

Tower of Cedars, Lausanne

Tower of Cedars, Lausanne

Now Stefano Boeri has designed a new 384 foot tall residential building in Lausanne, Switzerland, that bears many similarities to the Bosco Verticale. Named Tower of Cedars, the project is set to house more than 100 trees, 6,000 shrubs and 18,000 perennials. The apartment units protrude from the structure and offer views toward Lake Geneva, while their roofs are designed to accommodate plants.

According to Boeri, the building in the Chavannes-Près-Renens district of the city will be the first tower in the world to be covered with evergreen trees, selected in part for their ability to withstand harsh climates, and also the environmental function of their leaves which absorb CO2 and produce oxygen. “With the Tower of Cedar Trees we will have the opportunity to realize a plain building that will have a great role in the Lausanne landscape. An architecture able to introduce a significant biodiversity of vegetal species in the middle of an important European city,” Boeri says. The tower will comprise 36 floors and include private residences, offices and commercial space. There will also be a gym and a rooftop restaurant.

While buildings with sky gardens easily invoke a sense of utopian wonder, they are not built without challenges, particularly when it comes to structural support. At the Bosco Verticale in Milan, the engineering team worked with botanists and horticulturalists to ensure that the structure could bear the load imposed by the plants. The steel-reinforced concrete balconies are designed to be 11 inches thick with 4.2 foot parapets.

Slender residential towers such as those proposed in Manhattan have small floor plates and architects must ensure the building porosity does not compromise the tower stability.

At East 44th street, ODA utilized structural lateral systems in addition to a central core that act as the main supporting spine. The initial design did not include beams as the floors were supported by the building’s core, but Eran Chen says this proved structurally challenging. “By adding the beams we created ‘sculptured gardens’ that doubled as a way to protect against inclement weather while still providing 360 degree views.” Each garden is effectively covered by the floor above it and is protected from rain and snow.

Chen says the garden gaps at East 44th street also serve to lessen the wind load impacting the building — other skinny skyscrapers accomplish this via unused gaps throughout the structure. And the expansive height of the garden space with also permit a suffusion of sunlight throughout the central core and perimeter.  “We are used to seeing New York City’s towers as monolithic boxes usually housing corporate power. But today, as these towers become more residential, they do not need to have the same scale or design. They shouldn’t express the same thing,” he says. “When it comes to residential towers, they should all contain accessible outdoor space for all residents.”

Still, some critics argue that outdoor gardens at these heights is impractical in a city like New York, where temperatures drop well below freezing in winter months and the wind, which is known to howl down the avenues, would in this case howl both below and above you.

In London some critics allege that developers use the guarantee of lush green spaces to get building plans approved, but rarely deliver on their promise. At 20 Fenchurch Street early CGIs showed a storyboard of seductive images with residents mingling among cherry blossom from a soaring vantage point. The tower was given planning permission in an area never intended for tall buildings on the basis that it would deliver a public sky garden. Once complete, however, the garden amounted to nothing more than a few spindly trees in pot planters.

While down in Singapore, green design is on everyone’s mind when it comes to new architecture and not just to get buildings approved. The latest project by architect Christoph Ingenhoven is at the forefront of green technology. Ingenhoven Architects coined the term “Supergreen”. A concept they live and work by. Their definition of Supergreen: ‘an awareness of energy and resources, both in design, construction and operation and in the realization of the building and its use.’ Marina One was designed with this in mind. Located in the heart of Singapore, at Marina Bay. The two towers will be able to take advantage of rainwater harvesting, solar power and natural ventilation. Most importantly, at heart of the development is a 65,000 sq. ft. park, landscaped to fit its natural surroundings. Whether or not other future developments will follow suit to this extreme in Singapore, remains to be seen. However, Marina One is certainly taking being green, to the next level.

As with all new building trends, early incarnations will include hits and misses. It may take some time determine which types of sky gardens are truly used and enjoyed by residents. But architects like Chen are bullish about the potential for vertical parks to transform the contemporary urban reality.  “We believe that true luxury evolved from the ability to have the best of multiple worlds without compromise, and in this tower, the best of urban living melds with the dream of a suburban backyard,” he says. “There’s going to be a time in New York City where living without a substantial outdoor space is just going to be unacceptable.”

Story Credits
Text by Sophie Kalkreuth & Robbie Wilson

This article was originally published in PALACE 15

6 Must See Events: Dubai Design Week

6 Must See Installations: Dubai Design Week

For six days in October, the United Arab Emirates will see the international design community in town for Dubai Design Week. Filled with exhibitions, conferences and workshops from October 24 to 29, we take a look at six installations that you simply cannot miss, if you’re in town.


The Super Future Design Showroom is marking the opening by featuring an ephmeral botanical installation. The installation will also play the role of setting for furniture from Italian brand Moroso’s M’Afrique collection. The African-inspired furniture line is the work of such noted designers as Tord Boontje, Patricia Urquiola and Sebastian Herkner.

6 Must See Events: Dubai Design Week

Abwab: Bahrain

If the archaeological digs have been any indication, Bahrain has practiced the tradition of pottery for some time. Though the use of clay has now given way to other materials in the modern age, the art is still alive. Visitors to the Bahraini pavilion will have the chance to learn about how to manipulate “basic and necessary” shapes. The introduction into the world of pottery is the brainchild of an architect and a designer who have collaborated with the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.

Contemporary Practices in Islamic Design

Amongst the exhibits is a discussion group that explores how Islamic design has been retained in the modern world. With experts in the fields of Islamic architecture and design on hand, the group looks at how the traditional design elements still exist.

Bernar Venet Solo Exhibition

This is French artist Bernar Venet’s first-ever solo exhibition in the region. It will present an introduction to his work based on “variations of the line.” The main exhibit will be a 6.5 meter high monumental sculpture, installed at the entrance to the gallery. Visitors will also have the opportunity to view new steel sculptures from the “Arc,” “Angles” and “GRIB” series, and a selection of works on paper.

20 Icons of French design

The exhibition brings together 20 highly influential pieces of French design that were produced between the 1920s till today. The designers featured in the exhibition, include Philippe Starck, Jean Prouvé, Pierre Paulin and even the Bouroullec brothers.

Tom Dixon Pop-UpJunglemania The Super Future Design Showroom is marking the opening by featuring an ephmeral botanical installation. The installation will also play the role of setting for furniture from Italian brand Moroso’s M’Afrique collection. The African-inspired furniture line is the work of such noted designers as Tord Boontje, Patricia Urquiola and Sebastian Herkner.

This is the first pop-up store for Tom Dixon, in the Middle East. This serves as an opportunity for visitors to experience and purchase lighting as well as selected furniture by the British designer.

For more information, visit the Dubai Design Week.

Christie’s Forecasts Realistic Auction Prices

Christie’s Forecasts Realistic Auction Prices

The world has gotten used to ever increasing values for virtually all categories of so-called investments of passion over the last few years. Nevertheless, Christie’s is cautioning that “selective demand” and the global slump in demand is pushing the auction house to seek more “realistic estimates” on their offerings in the coming auction season.

“This year the market is not at the same level as it was one year or two years ago. We are facing a more challenging market,” Guillaume Cerruti, Christie’s president for Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India, told journalists in Dubai.

“To face this situation, the key word for us is selectivity,” he said, announcing two auctions this week in the glitzy Gulf emirate, one on Modern and Contemporary Art and another showcasing Important Watches.

“We want to have sales that are well curated, sales with maybe less objects but of high quality at… realistic estimates,” he said.

Displaying a distinct preference for finding an upside, he did not provide specific figures on the fall in overall sales. Instead, he said that online-only sales “have been a real success.”

“For the first six months of the year, we have sold through our online-only sales of 20 million pounds ($24.4 million) around the world,” a 100-percent over the same period of 2015, he added.

“We’re making sure that we find good quality of works that are well priced to ride through this more challenging period,” said Christie’s Middle East managing director, Michael Jeha.

In an auction on Tuesday of 113 artworks, the highest estimated price has been set at $180,000, far below the $400,000 price tag on paintings sold in March this year. Around 150 watches go up for auction on Wednesday, with estimated prices reaching $250,000.

Among them are two Patek Philippe 18K white gold automatic wristwatches with the Iraqi coat of arms and the name “Saddam”, after executed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein who ordered the watches in 1974 and 1980 as gifts. Their prices are estimated at $10,000 and $18,000 each.

London-based Christie’s, which celebrates its 250th anniversary on December 5, says its sales at Dubai auctions have exceeded $300 million since it opened a branch in the emirate 10 years ago.

Dubai Lights Burj Khalifa Up In Pink

Dubai Lights Burj Khalifa Up In Pink

  • Thursday saw the Burj Khalifa become more than just the tallest building in the world. The façade of the building was bathed in pink, to help draw attention and raise funds for breast cancer. The developer of the Burj, Emaar Properties, will see that the lights are turned on for the next two days and will continue it on the same days for the rest of October.

Visitors to the 823-meter tower are encouraged to show their support by dressing in pink. For each item sold by shops in the Tower during the month, one Emirati dirham will be donated to the Al-Jalila Foundation. Founded by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, the foundation seeks to promote early detection and prevention as well as research on breast cancer.

Dubai Lights Burj Khalifa Up In Pink

The Tower

The ruler also announced this week a new development in the Gulf emirate of Dubai with the construction of The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour. Upon completion, that is expected to be in 2020, it will dethrone the Burj Khalifa to become the world’s tallest building. Set to stand at 828-meters, the tower is expected to cost US$1 billion and will feature observation decks and a 360-degree view of the city.

The slender tower is designed by Spanish-Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava Valls and resembles a minaret that is anchored to the ground with sturdy cables. This new addition highlights Dubai’s reputation for building dozens of futuristic skyscrapers that have transformed the skyline. Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding is building a tower in Jeddah that is planned to surpass the Burj Khalifa, rising more than a kilometer. Obviously, that tower will be taller than even The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour.

Dubai property Burj Khalifa

Dubai Continues Unveiling New Luxury Properties

Even with declining property prices in Dubai, the city is seeing developers roll out scale models for more elaborate property projects. One fair gaining a reputation for featuring shining skyscrapers, golf-course villas and houses is Cityscape.

This week, the fair presented the Jumeirah Central project that will see an entire district of residential and office blocks, hotels and a mall up for sale to potential buyers. The property will be located in the city’s heart, Sheikh Zayed district and is owned by Dubai Holding, the developers behind the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab hotel.

Another development announced before the fair began was Emaar South (model pictured below). The project is expected to be built in Dubai South by Emaar Properties, who also happen to have built the Burj Khalifa among other Dubai landmarks. The location of the project will see it in the same area as Dubai’s second airport, Al-Maktoum. The new airport is set to overtake Dubai International as the base for Emirates Airline and may even become the world’s largest. “It is really amazing to get the chance to keep expanding this city,” Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar said at the launch. “Keep in mind that we are (only) 40-plus years old… We are really young as a country and as a city and there is a lot to do,” he added.

Dubai Continues Unveiling New Luxury Properties

Nakheel, the developer behind the man-made Palm Jumeirah, used the first day of the fair to announce an apartment complex that may very well become the star of the Dubai skyline. Back in 2002, the city was a magnet for property investments when the sector opened freehold inventory to foreigners. Thanks to this, value of properties climbed at breakneck speed until 2009 when the global financial crisis hit. With the help of tourism, trade and transportation, Dubai property was able to trend upwards again between 2012 and 2014. When the bubble burst again, it was at a slower pace where it dropped by 15% according to property consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle.

According to another property consultancy firm Cluttons, prices are set to soften later this year and will see the average price per square foot stand at 1,375 dirhams ($375). “We see the residential real estate market bottoming out by the end of this year,” said John Stevens, managing director of Asteco real estate services. While some decline is expected, Stevens said that the market is expected to be stable. Some attribute the drop in the market to the fall in Russian ruble last year as well as Brexit that saw the British pound drop. However, the good news for Dubai is that there is still interest coming in from other regions.

Transactions amounted to 57 billion dirhams ($15.5 billion) in the first half, according to official statistics, with Emirati nationals topping the list with deals worth 14.5 billion dirhams.

The rest were snapped up by foreigners led by Indian investors, with transactions worth seven billion dirhams, while Saudis and Britons clinched deals totalling four billion dirhams each.

“External factors over the years have always affected the appetite from certain countries,” said Stevens. “Certainly in the past 12 months, we’ve seen much greater interest from China, for example.” Only time will tell if the property market will improve in one of the fastest growing cities in the region.

Forest City: Billion Dollar Eco-Living Project

Care to own a slice of man-made paradise just an hour away from Singapore? Well Forest City, a Malaysian property development, is promising to provide potential homeowners just that. Set to open in 2035 (we know, it is a long wait but these guys are literally building a paradise), the property will call four man-made islands on the Malaysian side of the Johor Strait its home. Those interested in having a home or an investment on the island can expect to pay anywhere from $200,000 for a two-bed-room unit to $1.6 million for a seaside villa.

“It is by far one of the most enthusiastic private land reclamation projects I have heard of around the Southeast Asia region,” said Chua Yang Liang, head of research for Southeast Asia at property services and investment group Jones Lang Lasalle. The 700,000 high-rise and waterfront villas, will be joined by luxury amenities that will cover the 3,425 acres and is set to have its own immigration centre. At $42 billion, the project is one that is making the news of late not only because of its ambition but also due to the ecological impacts it can have on the marine life around it.

While the concept is being sold as a liveable eco-city, the land reclamation that will help make space for Forest City, is coming under fire for the damage and changes it will have on the environment. “It has the potential to change the ecology of the whole area in profound ways,” Greenpeace scientist Paul Johnston told AFP. “It might change the things that are living there, it might change the vegetation that can grow there” he added.

Even neighboring Singapore (no slouch in the land reclamation stakes itself) is taking notice of the development, prompting the environment ministry to study an impact assessment report by Malaysia. “No damage, no pollution has been exported to Singapore,” said Mohamad Othman Yusof, Executive Director of Country Garden Pacificview. “We don’t want to create any problems with anybody and we’re going to abide by the rules and regulations.”Country Garden acknowledged the loss of permanent fishing ground, damage to seagrass meadows and mangroves, thanks to the development. However, the developer added that the project would also have economic benefits with its creation of nearly 62,200 jobs.

Alongside these environmental woes, the property is now facing criticism from industry experts who believe that targeting investors from mainland China may not be the best idea. After all, China is seeing little growth in its economy and expansion thanks to authorities cracking down on corruption and stopping cash from being invested outside of the country.

Interestingly, at the reported prices, homes within Forest City will start lower than the majority of public housing in Singapore, with the aforementioned seaside villas being more affordable than most plain vanilla condominiums in the city-state. Apparently, buyers have taken notice because the AFP reports that the developers have moved 500 units already. Some of you reading this might wonder why man-made islands are even necessary for Malaysia, which has no shortage of land. Well, the approach worked in Dubai, though the environmental results there are exceedingly well documented, so maybe there’s something to it after all.

Forest City is a joint venture between Hong Kong-listed property giant Country Garden and a firm owned in part by the Sultan of Johor himself. Once again, the Dubai parallel is inescapable as that reclamation project was sponsored by the royals there.

This story was written in-house, based on reporting by the AFP and other online sources

Guide: 7 Ways to Use Yacht Glass

For the conventional, the use of yacht glass is kept to a minimum and used deep within the vessel. For those who are slightly more adventurous, yacht glass is used in spaces that can be seen from the docks. Thanks to this wonderful material, yacht owners can now look forward to creating their very own underwater lounges and futuristic glass elevators. We bring you seven uses of yacht glass that could very well be part of your next superyacht.

Glass-bottom Swimming Pool

The first use for yacht glass, obviously, is for a glass bottomed swimming pool. Seen on the M/Y A, which is owned by Russian chemical tycoon Andrey Melnichenko, it would be a dream to have. Measuring in at 119 meters, the superyacht boasts no less than three swimming pools, one of which is glass-bottomed. The swimming pool also functions as a disco ball for the disco below it (yes, a disco). While some may find it slightly extravagant to have a glass-bottomed swimming pool onboard, we wouldn’t blame you for being fascinated by it because we certainly would be. Melnichenko’s new sailing superyacht will also feature yacht glass so he appears to be sold on this material.

Above: M/Y A; Below: M/Y Venus

Above: M/Y A ; Below: M/Y Venus. Images from Yachtharbour.com

Floor-to-ceiling Panels

Remember how the late Steve Jobs loved clean and sleek designs? Well our second example just happens to be designed by him. Collaborating with Philippe Starck, the former Apple CEO constructed the 79 meter M/Y Venus that used yacht glass for the exterior. The floor-to-ceilings panels provide a breathtaking views when the superyacht is at anchor. Given the way yacht glass is used here, when the Venus is berthed in a marina, it will draw maximum attention. Even the cabin below makes use of the glass, though it is just short of a floor-to-ceiling length.

Glass Staircase

Why construct a run of the mill staircase in your superyacht when you can have a unique circular glass staircase? We assume that must have been what the designer had in mind when he created this superyacht. The M/Y Dubai currently calls His Highness Sheik Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum, ruler of Emirate of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates its owner. The circular glass staircase gives the illusion of ‘floating’ glass steps when bathed in the light from the skylight but also takes your breath away as it changes color according to the different moods on board.

Above: M/Y Dubai ; Below: M/Y Stella Maris

Above: M/Y Dubai ; Below: M/Y Stella Maris. Images from Yachtharbour.com

Glass Elevator

Understandably, the question of privacy emerges with the extensive use of yacht glass, just as it does in condominiums and apartments. However, in the M/Y Stella Maris, yacht glass is used to create a rich yet private villa-style yacht. It also allows for stunning views of the sea, which is a plus in our book. On the upper aft deck, sits the dining area enclosed in three glass walls; these can also be folded away, transforming the space into an al fresco dining area. And if you thought living on a yacht meant no suitable environment for green fingers to flourish, then think again. With the yacht glass trapping heat and humidity, the indoor living winter garden is a climate-controlled greenhouse. This superyacht also features a glass lift wrapped in a glass tube.

Above: M/Y Rising Sun ; Below: M/Y Savannah

Above: M/Y Rising Sun ; Below: M/Y Savannah.Images from Yachtharbour.com and Feadship.

Curved Windows, Underwater Lounges

Taking the fifth spot in our list is the 138 meter M/Y Rising Sun. A design by the late Jon Bannenberg, the superyacht features full-height curved windows that run the entire length of the upper level. Our sixth pick, is non other than the M/Y Savannah. This superyacht, makes use of yacht glass in several unique ways. From using the material on the exterior, creating a ‘floating’ superstructure, to designing a one-of-a-kind underwater lounge. Guests sitting in the glass-encased lounge are provided with a stunning view of the ocean on one side. On the other is a view of guests in the swimming pool. The lounge also pulls doubles duty as a cinema when not in use as a viewing platform.

M/Y Stiletto

M/Y Stiletto. Image from Oceanco and Ken Freivokh.

Our final pick, is the M/Y Stiletto by Oceanco. This superyacht was unveiled at the Dubai International Boat Show in 2015, making it the newest on this list. It has yet to be built so we may not be able to enjoy the amenities of the superstructure for a while. The use of yacht glass here, happens to be in the central 360-degree glass lift and spiral staircase. Add to that the large skylight that will bring sunlight down to the centre of the yacht, it will be another impressive creation.

This story was adapted from Yachting Pages. The article was written by Sarah Rowland.

Dubai Aims High For World Expo 2020

The World Expo has always been the event for countries, most especially host countries such as Dubai in 2020, to show off their true capabilities in spectacle and organization. This was especially true with the construction of the Eiffel Tower back in the 1889 Paris Expo, and the Tower of the Sun in the 1970 Osaka Expo. Well, Dubai is especially notable for always seeking to topple previous records, especially with their latest announcement of a new tallest tower being planned specially for the event. As the host of the 2020 World Expo, they’ve come up with ambitious plans with a hope to attract 25 million visitors. To put that into some context, that’s more than the population of Australia but far fewer than the 73 million who visited the last World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.

“For the first time in the history of World Expos, each country will have an individual pavilion, enhancing the ability of nations to showcase themselves,” organizers said in a statement. You read that right, that’s one for every participating country, which means possibly more than 200 pavilions. All this will spread over the 438 hectares of site ground located next to Dubai’s smaller second airport, Al-Maktoum International which opened in 2013.

Representatives of more than 100 countries gathered in the Emirati city for talks on the event, where panel discussions and workshops were held aimed at providing potential participants with details on the Expo 2020 plan and highlighting “business opportunities in the UAE for innovation, trade and investment, and knowledge transfer” (added in the statement).

While we should probably be quite skeptical of grandiose announcements, it would be quite a thing to see the combination of the pavilions and the tower coming up in 2020. From what we know of Dubai, they’re sure to try the hardest to live up to their grandiose ambitions.

This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report and image from the AFP.

Dubai Aims to Top Burj Khalifa Height

The world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, will lose its crown before 2020. Property developer Emaar’s chairman announced Sunday that a new viewing tower will be built which stands a “notch” taller than the Burj Khalifa, hoping to present it as a “gift” before Dubai’s hosting of the world expo trading fair. The viewing tower, designed by Spanish-Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava Valls, will cost around $1 billion and have observation decks, as well as 18 to 20 mixed-use floors that will host restaurants and a boutique hotel.

The Burj Khalifa opened in 2010, is 828 meters high, and cost $1.5 billion. The tower has been featured in blockbusters such as Mission Impossible (most memorably), and has been used by experienced BASE jumpers as a part of record-breaking jumps. Dubai, as a whole, has an established reputation for building dozens of futuristic skyscrapers, which have transformed its skyline.

The new tower will be slender in form, evoking the image of a minaret, and will be anchored to the ground with sturdy cables. Alabbar described the new structure as an “elegant monument” which would add value to property being developed by the company along the city’s creek. This isn’t the only attempt at breaking the Burj Khalifa’s record in the works, though, as Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding is also building a tower in Jeddah that will surpass Burj Khalifa, rising more than a kilometer.

Striving for such an architectural heights has always been a drive in humanity since the rise of the skyscraper and the famous battle for the title of tallest in world, with successes like the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, as well as failures like the Soviet Union’s Tatlin’s Tower, and the Frank-Lloyd Wright-envisioned 1,730 meter high tower, The Illinois. This Dubai project aims to join the list of successful projects, obviously.

This story was written in-house, with supporting materials from the AFP.

Dubai property Burj Khalifa

Insight: Appeal of Designer Apartments in Asia

Visitors to the recently completed Milano Residences in the Philippines will be greeted by its slick facade, before coming face to face with the lobby’s main draw – a Versace Home bubble sofa. Next to the statement piece is a sunburst coffee table with a crystal top, also Versace. All at once, touches of the Italian fashion mainstay unravel, in the black leather of dining chairs, steel chrome tables, and even the estate’s porcelain and silver tableware.

The $68 million, 340-unit Century Properties development is the brand’s first residential foray into Asia where designer brand properties have started to take flight, fuelled by demand from locals and expatriates alike.

Residents who opt to have their units in Manila designed by Versace Home are given exclusive access to the brand’s fine home collection, encompassing essentials from furniture to linens and pillows.

“The Versace world is not just expressed in fashion, but in the full spectrum of art and creativity,” said chief executive Gian Giacomo Ferraris, during an interview given shortly after the property’s launch in 2011. “From our love of beauty come tailor-made interior design services and home furnishings that tell of a genuine lifestyle – one that truly shows what ‘Made in Italy’ is all about.”

Ferraris added: “Milano residents will enjoy substantial value and will be proud of owning both an incredible investment and a symbol of a lifestyle never before seen in Manila.” By the start of 2015, the developer had sold 95% of 3,000 units across six projects slated for completion last year, including the Versace branded Milano Residences.

Why are labels having designs on property?

“Experiential luxury is growing faster than personal goods luxury and homes are a good bridge between the two worlds,” explained Mario Ortelli, senior research analyst at luxury asset management firm Sanford C Bernstein. “Designer homes are products you can live in.”

A growing demand for design brand residences in Asia suggests that buyers see property linked to fashion labels as stable, or at least, as stable as those linked with hotel chains and celebrity designers, translating into more gains across the board.

Labels also get an extra avenue to market their products, ranging from cosmetics to spa necessities and fragrances. It is no wonder more names are jumping on the Asian property bandwagon.

In June 2015, the Giorgio Armani Group signed a partnership agreement with Chinese real estate company Smart Hero Group for a residential project in Beijing.

Armani Casa will design the common areas, amenities and a few luxury apartments in a development targeted at integrating a modern aesthetic with the traditional concept of harmony between man and nature. It is expected to open by the end of 2017.

“The branded property sector is on an upward push,” said property developer John Hitchcox, who has worked with Philippe Stark, Kate Moss and Jade Jagger.

“I expect rivals will want to outdo Versace with even bigger and more flamboyant plans for homes,” Hitchcox added.

John Hooks, former deputy chairman of Giorgio Armani and group president of Ralph Lauren Europe, who is now CEO of the fashion holding company Pacific Global Management concurs. “We use modern, often Apple-designed products. We work in modern offices in modern buildings. We go on holiday in modern boutique hotels,” Hooks says. “Small wonder many consumers want modern at home, too. It’s what they know and are comfortable with, and homes are all about comfort,” he adds.

Priced Acquisition

As with branded accessories and apparel, association comes with a price tag.

Fendi Chateau Residences, Miami

Fendi Chateau Residences, Miami

At Miami’s Fendi Château Residences, a two-storey penthouse – which includes 7,000 sq. ft. of interior space, 2,000 sq. ft. of terraces and a rooftop pool – costs a whopping $25 million.

Besides having a private elevator, the penthouse is laced with customised Fendi Casa kitchen cabinets, Gaggenau appliances and Italian Calacata marble in bathrooms. The price of an oceanfront residence starts at $6 million, according to, well, us (Editor’s Note: The Palace team referenced the linked story in writing this article, which has now come full circle).

In the case of a dwelling in Milano Residences, where some units boast private wading pools, the figure is placed at a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million.

This is a fraction of what a designer brand unit costs in Miami and just about the average of condominium lodging in land scarce Singapore, but extravagant for an abode in the still-rapidly developing Philippines.  Branded properties are not exclusively tagged to fashion bigwigs; they are traditionally associated with reputed developers and celebrity designers.

Milano Residences, Manila

Milano Residences, Manila

Buying into brands

Buyers are biting, and are likely to fork out 20% to 30% more for a branded property than a less glitzy equivalent, said Joanna Leverett, Savills’ head of international new developments.

“These developments tend to see a similar premium for rentals and on resale, so buyers feel confident their purchase will hold its value. They also increasingly prefer this hassle-free option compared with a standalone Tuscan farmhouse or southern French villa,” she explained.

Going by the trend of good returns, it is possible that Asian buyers are cashing in for investment purposes.

Luxury estate prices in the world’s major cities are set to continue slowing, from 3% in 2015 to 1.7% in 2016, according to the latest Knight Frank Prime Cities Forecast. The report mainly attributed this to China’s economic slowdown.

Hong Kong is expected to be the worst performing market with a price fall of 5%, followed by Singapore, where prices will probably fall by 3.3% in 2016.

St. Regis Residences, Singapore

St. Regis Residences, Singapore

Forking out extra for a branded home also ensures that buyers, should they choose to make the property their home, live in a lap of luxury. Units such as those in Singapore’s St Regis Residences offer butler services.

For those looking to keep an eye on their supercars, a pad in Reignwood Hamilton Scotts comes with a private garage that lifts cars to a resident’s living room. This does not come cheap. Renting costs $11,000 a month, while buyers can expect to pay $1,640 – $2,625/sq. ft.

Developing on profits

The benefits on tying up with an established brand extends to developers too. A report by C9 Hotelworks, a Phuket-based hospitality and property consultancy forecasted in October 2015 that more developers will strive for international hotel group affiliations.

This is “given the demonstrated brand premium in selling prices between 20% – 30% and the connection with associated hospitality assets,” the report added.

Four Seasons Private Residences, Bangkok

Four Seasons Private Residences, Bangkok

The hotel residences market in Southeast Asia is valued at $16 billion. This consists of 28,000 branded units spread over 120 projects. According to the same report, the number of developments could be influenced by land sale prices. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam were at the top of the table.

Land prices in Singapore averaged more than $25,000/sq. ft. – the highest in the region. Even so, demand for units in the South Beach Residences condominium, eclectically conceptualized by reputed French designer Philippe Stark, has not wavered. The 190 luxury apartments are expected to be completed in the first half of 2016.

Story Credits
Text by Tina Chopra

This article was originally published in PALACE 15