The Atlantis hotel is, as the name suggests, a marine themed hospitality complex at the tip of Palm Jumeirah. The development started as a joint venture between Kerzner International and Dubai Government owned Istithmar, and opened its doors with a firework that stretched over the entire Palm in September 2008 – notably the same year as the world tumbled into the economic crisis.
Here some quick facts: the hotel comprises of over 1,500 rooms on 23 floors and stretches over a 46 hectare site which also includes a water park. Project cost came at 1,5 billion US dollar. Four years after opening, Istithmar took over Kerzner’s 50% share in the property at 1/3 of its initial value. Kerzner remains the operator of the property.
From an urban planning point of view, the design of Atlantis hotel is spot on: the building visually extends the axis of the Palm and defines clearly its end. The symmetrical building emphasizes the axis and shows proportion suitable for distant viewing. Very appropriate is the Royal Bridge Suite which links the two wings and forms a large scale window to the sea, to the horizon, to the dream.
On an architectural level, meaning on a smaller scale, the building misses the strength of its urban impact on two levels: for one, the detailing seems to have undergone significant cost optimization. This results in a design and materialization that creates a type of luxury that rather caters to the masses than to the classes. The second point has to do with the theme of Atlantis: while present, it misses to come truly alive. This might be a result of an insufficient intensity of theme-related details or a lack of authenticity thereof. This leads to the question of how easy it is to create an authentic environment based upon a fictitious theme.