WRITER: Kate Hazell
The Floating Seahorse villas are a pod of holiday homes with underwater bedrooms and bathrooms. Anchored off Dubai’s coast within the manmade archipelago The World, it’s the city’s latest real estate project vying to capture your imagination.
Dubai has always been an ambitious city. From proudly claiming the world’s first seven-star hotel, unveiling the world’s biggest shopping mall, erecting the tallest skyscraper and creating the world’s biggest manmade island, the emirate’s reputation is built on impressive architectural triumphs. The Floating Seahorse project, a city of floating villas placed four kilometres off the Jumeirah coastline, has stayed on schedule despite the fact that the rest of The World has not. Kleindienst Group, the Austrian real estate developer behind the project unveiled the first of the 131 Floating Seahorse villas.
Placed, or should we say ‘moored’, off the St Petersburg island, the villa is currently receiving plenty of visitors, with potential investors, buyers and nosey journalists curiously arriving by speedboat three times a day. The journey takes about 20 minutes from the mainland and will eventually also be connected by seaplane and RTA water taxis. Each floating structure costs 3.2 million USD to build, with phase one of the project consisting of 42 signature villas, slated to be ready for the first owners to move in by October 2016.
The last of the 131 Floating Seahorses will be handed over in 2018 and the unique thing about their final location is the calmness of the water thanks to being protected by the surrounding Heart of Europe archipelago of islands.
“I always wanted to experience the ocean but I’m afraid of scuba diving,” says Josef Kleindienst, the CEO of Kleindienst Group, as he shows us around the sleek prototype. It took four months to build, yet the project initially started out in 2008 when Kleindienst announced the building of three water palaces. Then the financial crisis hit and the company decided to redesign the project into smaller villas, opening it up to a larger pool of customers.
The signature 290 square metre one-bedroom villas, equipped with Wi-Fi, a television and butler service, are set across three levels. Guests can admire marine life from their glass-walled lower level bedroom and bathroom, the middle floor, at water level, is made up of a living room, kitchen and spacious outer sun deck, while on the upper floor, you’ll find a glass-bottomed Jacuzzi, which doubles as the living room’s skylight, along with some impressive views of Dubai’s skyline. And for those who want a little more, a few larger villas of 370 square metres are available and they come with two underwater bedrooms and bathrooms.
The main floor and upper level offer the impression of being on a boat, whereas the basement is for submariners.
The first villas to hit the market, priced at 3.4 million USD each, immediately sold out. It should be noted that the price tag also includes the land where it’s anchored, the jetty, the connection to utilities, and access to the heart-shaped St Petersburg Island, which will have spas, clubs, gyms, shops and restaurants open by the end of the year, with a hotel to follow shortly after in 2018.
“The biggest challenge we had with this project was designing the dimensions in a way that allows people feel comfortable underwater,” Kleindienst says. “Technically it wasn’t a problem to build. The challenges came with how to design it in a way that people feel safe, comfortable and not claustrophobic. We put a lot of thought into room dimensions, height, size and shape of the windows.”
The in-house team of engineers and architects who worked on the project combated the problem by designing the ceilings and glass walls with gentle curves so as to open up the perspective, while avoiding any compromises in terms of scaling down doors, wardrobes and stairs, as you would, for instance, on a boat. In fact, it’s easy to forget you’re floating at all once aboard the steady structure. The Scandinavian-inspired interiors revolve around a palette of teak, brown leather and marine-inspired hues but of course, buyers can opt to customise as they see fit.
The underwater bedroom and bathroom feature floor-to-ceiling windows, which means you can admire marine life and coral from the most comfortable and intimate of environments.
Kleindienst and his team wanted to make sure the project was sensitive to the natural environment and so they created a nursery of over 100,000 corals rescued from the surrounding area, which will then be relocated to positions around the houses. He mentions one rather handsome reef, which was recently rescued from the old sea wall at the Burj Al Arab as it underwent a major renovation as part of a huge sundeck extension. “A single coral will feed 10 hammour, so no coral, no hammour,” he explains. “It’s essential to maintain the water quality and ensure the marine life stays intact with a project like this.”
Kleindienst expects all 131 villas to be sold by the time this article comes out. His group has signed a five-island project in the Asia area of The World that will come next but he remains tight-lipped about the designs, which are still being finalised.