In 1987, Ian Ritchie Architects, with Jean Louis Lhermitte (artist), won the competition to design a new monument to express Dubai’s ambition to become the cultural centre of the Gulf.
Dubai’s memory is linked to the historical, natural and intellectual richness of the Arabo-Persian Gulf.
Although pearl diving no longer exists off Dubai’s shores, the pearls from Dubai are still alive in the whole world’s memory. This monument, together with the proposed museum beneath the Pearl, will set the scene for this idea of ‘memory’ linked to the Gulf: water, sea, life and energy. The life-giving sea bordering the park recalls to all visitors these symbols.
The pearl, visible by day as by night, offers a striking and unique light show. Its scale, 17 metres in diameter, has been chosen for the purpose of being highly visible along the sea front, from the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the harbour, as well as from boats and airplanes.
The central symbol, the Pearl, is composed of a double curvature glass skin, whose surface, translucency and ‘depth’ have been researched to create that ephemeral quality of lustre, opalescence and iridescence associated with pearls. The spherical ‘arabesque’ geometry of the glass panels and stainless steel structure is unique and was developed especially for the project, as was the ‘phantom’ glass fixing which ensures that the external surface is only glass with no visible fixing, and enables the structure and glass skin to move independently from each other in the harsh environment of the Middle East. Prototypes of doubly curved glass and the phantom fixing were fabricated, tested and shipped to Dubai.
The project was suspended just before the Gulf conflict.