Zanzibar Domino Commercial Tower

Zanzibar Domino Commercial Tower Photo

Architect Jean-Paul Cassia sees his studio’s new spiral skyscraper project having a domino effect—both aesthetically and economically. From a design perspective, the building is meant to evoke the shape of stacked dominoes he played with as a kid. But the wow-worthy tower is also intended to trigger a turnaround of Zanzibar’s financial fates—helping revive tourism on the Tanzanian archipelago, which went from a high of nearly 540,000 visitors in 2019 to just 260,000 in 2020.

The 70-story Zanzibar Domino Commercial Tower would rank as Sub-Saharan Africa’s tallest building, part of a massive complex being developed by Tanzania’s AiCL Group and Scotland’s Crowland Management. Built on an artificial island in the Indian Ocean, the 20-hectare (49.4-acre) site near the capital city of Dar es Salaam aims to establish itself as a go-to hotspot for entertainment, culture and conferencing. 

“What we intend to build is a destination that embodies a ‘live, work, play and celebrate’ environment,” said Cassia, managing director of xCassia, Dubai.

The project’s staggering US$1.3 billion budget represents 60 percent of Zanzibar’s annual budget and would rank as the most expensive single-standing building ever constructed on the continent. Yet, this is no exorbitant waste of money—the project directly aligns with the government’s economic strategy. In June, Tanzania President Hussein Mwinyi appealed to investors around the world to help fund infrastructure and tourism projects as part of a plan to revitalize growth over the next 30 years.

To make sure the tower lives up to that hefty investment, project leaders are out to deliver first-class luxury. “Any project that is made to attract tourism needs to capture the hearts and imagination of people,” said Olivier Lapidus, partner and interior design creative director at xCassia.

Linked by a high and low bridge structure, the development will span three distinct areas, each loaded with activities and amenities: hotels for up to 800 guests, 560 apartments, a golf course, a wedding chapel, and a marina where yachts and cruise ships can dock.

One of the team’s biggest challenges? Building an artificial island that can stand up to environmental risks associated with ocean construction. In addition to working with construction and marine geology specialists to ensure the island’s structural integrity, the team plans to conduct environmental impact assessments to identify, mitigate and manage any threats construction or the resort itself could pose to the marine ecosystem.

The team already has committed to sustainable practices like incorporating carbon sequestration strategies and biophilic principles. A combination of green and horticultural walls and water features not only will improve the pedestrian experience but will also help show how projects in Zanzibar can align with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, Cassia says.

Initial plans were unveiled in August, with project leaders targeting completion by early 2025. Cassia is ready—and feeling particularly motivated after the initial plans to build the tower in Vietnam were erased by the pandemic.

“When fate gives you the opportunity to design a project like Domino twice, the approach is decidedly all about creating a destination that has the power to connect the planet, people and create prosperity in a way that elevates the human experience in a sustainable, responsible and universal way.” 

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