A first look at the ambitious design of Dubai's Atlantis The Royal

Dramatic architecture and interiors inspired by water await at the much-anticipated luxury resort

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Dramatic water features, vertical gardens and an expansive sky bridge are among the defining design features of the much-anticipated Atlantis The Royal.

As the luxury resort gears up for its grand reveal on January 21, its dominating silhouette has already become an integral part of Dubai’s skyline. It sits brazenly on the outer crescent of the Palm, adjacent to its sister property, Atlantis, The Palm.

“We were asked to dream big on this project. To create something unique and iconic for Dubai – and when I look at it now, I’m amazed by the audacity of the whole undertaking,” says James von Klemperer, president and design principal of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, or KPF, the architecture firm which brought the ambitious project to life.

Spanning 406,000 square metres, Atlantis The Royal is 500 metres long and extends 43 storeys and 178 metres upwards. Its distinctive form consists of six towers shaped like a stack of individual blocks, connected from above by a 90-metre by 33-metre sky bridge. It is home to 795 rooms and suites, countless hospitality venues and no fewer than 90 swimming pools.

While the end result feels futuristic, KPF drew inspiration from the monumental arches and arcades of ancient Roman aqueducts, where the space between structures frame the sun and sky, incorporating these natural elements into the overall design.

“I’m bowled over by what’s been built, with its vertical piling up of outdoor experiences in the pools, outside spaces and remarkable design features at every turn," says von Klemperer. "The gardens in the sky, first imagined in sketches on paper, are now realised hundreds of feet above the ground.”

KPF is responsible for some of the most recognisable destinations and buildings in the world, including New York’s Hudson Yards, the largest private development in US history; London’s Covent Garden neighbourhood; and six of the 12 tallest towers in the world, including the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the Ping An Finance Centre in Shenzhen, China, and Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea.

The interiors of Atlantis The Royal were undertaken by GA Group, which drew its inspiration from Bedouin culture. Famed for their resourcefulness, these tribes would traverse inhospitable desert terrain using water wells as a navigational tool.

And so the preciousness of water is celebrated throughout the new hotel, with water features, sculptures and colour palettes that celebrate this essential commodity. A dramatic 11.5-metre tall lobby sculpture, Droplets, represents the first drop of rain in a dry desert, while the Deluge water elevators invite guests to walk through water to reach other parts of the property. Eye-catching light fixtures in the form of cloud bursts hover overhead in the hotel’s elevator banks, while hundreds of raindrop-shaped light pendants stud the ceilings of the lobby.

One of the world’s leading water feature design firms, WET, was enlisted to help. The company behind Las Vegas' famous Fountains of Bellagio and the record-breaking HSBC Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport, WET envisaged a series of water features to sit along the resort’s main axis. From Firefalls to Skyblaze, the evocatively named fountains demonstrate the power of water, but also its capacity to encourage quiet moments of contemplation.

Firefalls consists of two reflective walls of glass, clad in rippling water, interspersed with programmed plumes of fire, while Skyblaze is a 28-metre high fire and water fountain that encapsulates myriad water forms, fire bursts, lights and performative music.

Complementing these tributes to water, the hotel’s design takes traditional resort landscaping and transforms it into vertical forms. The design of the property’s Sky Pool Villas and Sky Terraces are also informed by local culture, taking cues from Mozarabic courtyards, which were traditionally cooled by shading, plants and ornamental fountains. The villas and terraces are shaded from the floors above and ventilated by the oceanic winds and pools, creating passively cooled spaces that aim to extend the time guests can enjoy the outdoors from six to almost 10 months of the year.

All of the resort’s elevated pools are acrylic-fronted, inviting guests to swim up to 43 stories in the air, while looking out to the skyline and beyond.

“This is it. Our moment is finally here to reveal Atlantis The Royal as the world’s most ultra-luxury resort,” says Tim Kelly, managing director of Atlantis Dubai. “Atlantis The Royal is about experiencing something you never imagined could be and the architecture sets this up masterfully, with the six towers joined together by a 90-foot infinity pool, redrawing the Dubai skyline and creating a new icon on the Palm.

“It delivers a bespoke range of breathtaking experiences, inviting guests to swim among the clouds in sky pools and be dazzled by fountains that breathe fire. The unique building reflects the once-in-a-lifetime experiences guests will have inside.”

The hotel has already begun taking reservations for March. Rooms in the opening month start at Dh4,066 for the first two weeks, going up to Dh4,545 from March 19. In April, rooms cost as much as Dh5,951 per night.

Updated: January 10, 2023, 8:07 AM