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No city better expresses the future of both design and hospitality than Dubai, where the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab hotel helped set the standard for architecturally significant stays when it debuted back in 1999—with a billion-dollar price-tag. Since then, a slew of equally impressive properties have opened their doors in both Dubai and neighboring Abu Dhabi. But few are as visually stunning as the new Atlantis the Royal on the Palm Island.

Opened last week, the 43-floor hotel is perched at the end of the Palm directly facing the Persian Gulf and a short stroll from the original Atlantis Dubai, which opened nearly 15 years ago. Atlantis the Royal Resort and Residences includes nearly 800 guest rooms and some 231 private homes set in a series of angular, geometric boxes stacked one on top of each other like futuristic Jenga structures. Designed by global architectural leaders Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) architects, the hotel is arresting and eye-catching, a sign of design and technological wizardry set against the shimmering sea. 

The resort shimmers during nighttime. The Atlantis Royal Dubai

“Atlantis the Royal is about experiencing something you never imagined could be and the architecture sets this up masterfully,” says Tim Kelly, managing director of Atlantis the Dubai says. There are “six towers joined together by a 90-foot infinity pool, redrawing the Dubai skyline and creating a new icon on the Palm.”

KPF was an almost inevitable choice for Kerzner International, the firm behind both the old and new Atlantis. Along with being responsible for New York’s neighborhood-defining new Hudson Yards project, KPF has designed six of the 12 tallest towers in the world, ranging from the Shanghai World Financial Center to the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea. The firm is also a luxury-hotel veteran, responsible for aesthetically inventive properties such as Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood Hong Kong at Victoria Dockside and Rosewood Bangkok.

One of 44 Sky Pool Villa Suites which come with private infinity pools, inviting guests to swim among the clouds. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images for Atlantis Dubai)

One of 44 Sky Pool Villa Suites which come with private infinity pools. Francois Nel/Getty Images for Atlantis Dubai

According to KPF president and design principal James von Klemperer, the new Atlantis was all about grand ideas. “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,” he says, “with its vertical piling up of outdoor experiences in the pools, outside spaces and remarkable design features.” 

Atlantis the Royal’s sprawling beachfront The Atlantis Royal Dubai

Although wholly new and original, the design of the new Atlantis pays homes to the original one next door. Atlantis the Royal takes a thoroughly modern approach to classic sculptural towers—stacks of individual blocks each packed with their own set of distinctive amenities. Six inimitable towers are joined together by a central skybridge nearly 300 feet long. Within each block are cut-out openings that add depth and intrigue to the hotel’s overall design aesthetic while helping to illuminate the overall property from within. The result: an instant landmark on the Dubai skyline that is as simple as it is unforgettable. Kerzner describes the design as a reimagined take on the classic arches and arcades of Roman aqueducts.  

“The building doesn’t really have a front or a back, which is unusual, and this multi-directional aspect of the building is a special aspect of its design,” says von Klemperer. “The way the structure acts as a sort of screen, which allows views to go both ways, could be seen to reference the screens of mosques and Islamic architecture.

A close-up of the SkyBridge. The Atlantis Royal Dubai

Coming in at $1.6 billion, the materials used in the construction of Atlantis the Royal are as impressive as its look. The 1,500-foot-long, 550-foot-tall hotel required almost one million square feet of glass, around 1.6 million square feet of marble and 7.8 million cubic feet of concrete to construct. 

Much of these materials were used for the resort’s signature Sky Bridge, which serves as a visual—if not literal—anchor for the entire property. Spinning nearly 4,000 feet long, the bridge required some serious engineering acrobatics to maneuver into place. During construction, it was lifted into position at a rate of about 20 feet per hour by a team of eight hydraulic jacks. Now fully operational, the bridge is home to a bunch of restaurants, lounges, pool decks and event spaces.  

The resort’s chandelier-filled interior The Atlantis Royal Dubai

Much like the rest of the hotel, Von Klemperer describes the bridge “as a very entertaining place to go . . . but also a very serious piece of architecture.” One that is set to become a landmark not just for Dubai, but for the entire Persian Gulf region.