Tanzania has revealed plans to build Africa’s second-tallest building on the autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, a 70-story spiraling tower intended to help draw tourists back to the area after COVID decimated the local economy. On August 24, the New York Dubai-based architecture and interiors firm xCassia signed an agreement with Tanzania’s AICL Group and Edinburgh’s Crowland Management Ltd to design the forthcoming Zanzibar Domino Commercial Tower.
The $1.3 billion tower will, according to a joint press release from the three groups, contain “luxury hotels,” 560 apartments, a golf course, a wedding chapel, and a marina at its base for yachts and cruise ships. Indeed, the rendering released by xCassia shows the curved structure at the base of the tower carving out a sheltered cove in the Indian Ocean lined with docks that would guide boats towards a central plaza and other amenities.
Domino Tower takes obvious design inspiration from its namesake, resembling a row of dominos toppling over, the massing starting from a tall, diagrid pane that extrudes and scallops, gradually growing shorter as the building curves and wraps in on itself. Jean-Paul Cassia, the founder of xCassia reportedly said that the project was “first sketched in Paris in 2009, after my late father, my two sons and I played a round of dominos. I dreamed of building this project for more than a decade.”
However, whether the project will actually be realized is up in the air. At a cost of $1.3 billion, building Domino Tower alone would cost about 60 percent of the country’s entire annual budget of approximately $3.17 billion for 2021-2022. The project slots into Zanzibar’s push to develop new hotels and other tourist attractions as part of its “Blue Economy” strategy, which is attempting to lure international investment by promoting the autonomous zone’s prime location in the Indian Ocean.
That location, and the feasibility of building a destination skyscraper on a manmade island, poses serious questions about how the project will respond to and mitigate flooding as sea levels continue to rise on account of unchecked climate change. What’s more, this iteration of Domino Tower isn’t the first; at the end of last year, a slightly tweaked version of the project was pitched for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam but at a whopping 99 stories and 1,772 feet tall. Though it doesn’t appear the taller Domino Tower is moving forward (there’s been little-to-no news about the development after the renderings initially dropped), it remains to be seen whether its counterpart in Zanzibar will meet the same fate or actually be realized. Officials have promised a four-year construction timetable if and when Domino Tower breaks ground.