Arch trip to Dubai called off

Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai.
Wild Wadi Water Park in Dubai. Photo by Creative Commons.

On Monday morning, senior architecture majors were told they would be traveling to Dubai to gather inspiration for water park designs. But after learning Thursday that the global competition for which they would submit their designs is illegitimate, the students will remain in the Western hemisphere.

“Senior Project Design Studio” professor Tom Zook ARC ’95 told participating seniors in an email Thursday morning that the trip had been cancelled. The original project, which consisted of creating designs for new attractions for a competition seemingly hosted by the Jumeirah hotel chain’s Wild Wadi Water Park, was called off because the general manager of the water park never approved the contest.

Instead, the students will enter a competition to design large-scale art for the Freshkills Park on Staten Island and will travel to the deserts of the American West on the dates they had chosen for their original trip, Jan. 26 to 30, to conduct research for the project.

Zook said Thursday that he and Steven Harris, the class’s other professor, had found the Dubai competition listed on many reputable architecture-related websites. After noticing that the listing had been taken down from one of the sites this week, the professors contacted Jumeirah to see whether a technical error had occurred, only to discover that the competition had been cancelled altogether.

“The general manager at the Jumeirah Resort informed us that the competition was not sanctioned or supported by them,” Zook said. “We considered going forward as an independent research project regardless, but the process of entering an international competition is central to the studio.”

The professors quickly found an alternative competition. The design students will each enter the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition now, Zook said. Sponsored by New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation, the contest asks competitors to design public art projects for the Freshkills Park, a landfill reclamation project on Staten Island.

Zook said the Freshkills competition was their second choice after the Wild Wadi Water Park project. He explained that he and Harris initially preferred the Dubai project because it was appropriately complex in its technical requirements, but that they now feel the architecture students are ready to handle the more difficult Freshkills contest.

Architecture student Kevin Adkisson ’12 said that while he was disappointed that the original plan did not pan out, he is looking forward to the new challenge.

“It’s tragic that we are not going to Dubai, but really, our education up to this point hasn’t exactly been aimed at water slide design,” Adkisson said. “I’m sure that [the new project] will be equally enthralling to work on, even if we don’t get to go to Dubai.”

To prepare for their new project, Zook said the students will likely travel to the vast desert areas around Las Vegas, which contain many of the country’s most important large-scale land art projects, including works by Michael Heizer, James Turrell and Robert Smithson.

Though students began studying water’s use in design in anticipation of creating pieces for the water park, their research will remain relevant for the new competition. The Freshkills challenge asks participants to create a design that can harness energy from nature and convert it to electricity. Zook said water will play a key role in executing this part of the challenge, and that understanding the connection between water and energy is highly important for developing architects.

“Generation of energy is a central concern [in architecture],” Zook said. “It can’t be added later after a design is complete.”

Zook added that students may even design water slides as pieces of sculpture, as long as the slides can generate their own power.

The winner of the Freshkills Park competition will receive $20,000.

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