The newly-unveiled virtual reality theme park in Dubai Mall is a glimpse into a spectacular space, where everything is upside down, quite literally.
The integration of virtual reality in interior design may be in very early stages, but it heralds a new era in the field, which in time will be used to create ground-breaking spaces. Emaar Entertainment appointed 4Space Interior Design to design a one of a kind virtual reality theme park that has never been created in the MENA region before this.
With a unique experience at the core, the brief was to create a futuristic ambiance that will introduce visitors to the wonderful world of virtual reality. “The developer was looking for an innovative and thought-provoking design approach that would blow the minds of the visitors,” says Firas Alsahin, interior architect and managing partner of the firm.
Located on the former site of the now-defunct Sega Republic theme park, the design team refurbished some of the existing rides, while also introducing fresh concepts. “Considering it’s a virtual reality theme park, we decided to create a space that will challenge the reality and pay a unique homage to the vibrant city of Dubai in an inverted world — turning the floor into the sky, and transforming the ceiling to depict the landscape of Dubai,” says Alsahin. “The attraction has been designed to challenge the reality, blurring the lines between perception and reality through unforgettable and mind-altering experiences.”
Alsahin shares that he worked on 3D modelling at an early age which hooked him on to gaming and virtual reality. This has continued to inspire him within the realm of his interior design work. “At 4Space, we use VR technology to present our design and renderings to the clients,” he says. “That’s why when we got awarded this project, I was very excited about getting the opportunity to translate the VR concept in the interiors of the theme park.”
Science fiction movies have always been a great source of inspiration for interiors that relate to gaming experiences. For Alsahin, too, it was natural to look towards this cinema genre. “I usually draw my inspiration from books, games, and sci-fi films, and I have been fascinated with Christopher Nolan’s movie, Inception, which introduced me to the inverted world — what happens when you mess with the reality,” says Alsahin. The centerpiece of the project is the flipped version of Downtown Dubai, where an upside down view of the iconic Burj Khalifa greets visitors.
The designer shares that the whole concept of the 7,200m2 split-level space started with sketches. “The idea was developed gradually from 3D modelling to detailed drawings,” he says. “The plan required a lot of coordination with other parties that have rides in the park.” The design team studied the site and took into consideration such aspects as the visitor demographics, distribution of the wayfinding signs, ticket booths, public spaces, and back of the house areas. “We had to deal with five different partners and more than 15 diverse rides. Each one needed to be located appropriately as per the site condition as well as correspond with the refurbished rides, as stipulated by the client,” explains Alsahin.
The novel technology-heavy project presented new challenges, too. The biggest challenge was achieving an authentic inverted cityscape of Downtown Dubai. “The objective was to replicate the city, so we teamed up with a theming company, who was able to execute the life-like details of the precinct, including the landmark structures,” says Alsahin.
Getting the proportions accurate was also a crucial process. “We designed a 27m-long replica of an inverted Burj Khalifa in the middle of the theme park. It is in the void connecting the two levels. We needed to have the right proportions of the skyscraper, while its surrounding areas needed to be projected as a video mapping on a massive canvas that covers the whole theme park ceiling,” shares Alsahin about the design approach.
The state-of-the-art façade also called for an ingenious way to create an overall coherent representation. “We designed it with an enormous, bent LED screen displaying the changes from day to night scene,” says Alsahin. “We had to sync the animation along with the 3D-projected buildings of Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa in the centre.” As with most built environments these days, increasingly, user experience involves making the space favourable to social media platforms. At the VR Park, the main lobby provides visitors with ample Instagram opportunities.
Using a variety of high-tech materials and surfaces, such as reflective blue epoxy flooring, acrylic column cladding, and glass reinforced concrete, the design firm has created an immersive space which stays true to the virtual reality concept.
Evidently, the design theme has harnessed cutting-edge technologies in this futuristic space.