At the northern edge of the emirate of Dubai lies the neighbouring emirate and city of Sharjah, historically one of the wealthiest towns in the region and an important trading centre due to its strategic location in the gulf. Sharjah aspires to develop its own identity and it is investing massively in public infrastructure. Its lagoons are the most prominent man-made landscape feature of the city.
With the objective of increasing the waterfront area, Office for Architecture’s project aims to bring ‘water to the desert’. At the centre of one of the lakes there lies an artificial island which is currently perhaps the most attractive potential location for urban public development. The architecture team explains: “The site, with its prime location shall be sculpted by such an architectural form and function that it redefines the entire perception of the area, proving Sharjah with a new identity.”
The Water Village is meant to embrace the public-use vocation of the artificial island without ignoring its potential as part of the planned or already built system of public spaces. The ‘Water Village’ will have a total surface of 150,500 sq m, which is the surface area of the island.
The Water Village is to have the following functions: 20 public open spaces, 500 sq m each one; 100 public roofing spaces, 100 sq m each one; 1 water park, 5,000 sq m; 1 thematic hotel with a maximum of 200 rooms (besides other facilities), 10,000 sq m; 10 playgrounds, 1,000 sq m each one; 1 covered water sports facilities (men only), 10,000 sq m; 1 women-only recreational/ sports centre, 10,000 sq m; central park and gardens (walking trails, seawalls, boulevards) 85,500 sq m.
The built environment of Dubai is heterogeneous as it is defined by the plethora of modern iconic buildings, individually competing for recognition with their unfamiliar forms and scales. Sharjah’s Water Village on the contrary is designed to form a homogenous canvas with its context by being rooted in traditional patterns and yet being individually modern in its form.
The built and the unbuilt engulf each other to form a comprehensive public open space providing a plethora of experiences. The detailed intricate edge of the built maximises the view of the surrounding area. The outermost layer of the landscape integrates the built into the sea and provides a series of public beaches for people.
Office for Architecture explains: “The Water Village is developed using natural scales and fractals, therefore in spite of being starkly different in its form the experience of the building shall never seem alien and dominating, and people can related to the building just as they relate to the setting where the Water Village sits.”