International masterplanner EDAW is on the verge of pulling out of Dubai over fears the massive building boom is not socially, culturally or environmentally sustainable.
The company's London office is already in contract negotiations over quitting plans for a proposed 14,000 hectare development on the edge of the Persian Gulf.
The Palm Jebel Ali landside scheme would create a city for 400,000 new residents living in 15 'distinct' neighbourhoods.
However, managing principal Bill Hanway has launched a stinging attack on development trends in the emirate, which could see more than 700,000 new homes built by 2020.
He said: 'Of greatest concern is what could happen in Dubai if modifications to the current practices are not addressed.
'To be absolutely clear, this is not about the imposition of Western ideals on an Islamic culture, but a fundamental requirement of creating destinations that provide a legacy for future generations.
'In order for these cities and destinations to prosper, all of the new projects must provide sustainable social, cultural, environmental and physical infrastructure in a balance with economic goals, ' he added.
Current figures suggest the population of the oil-rich city could double within 15 years to more than 4 million. The number of second homeowners and tourists is also predicted to rocket.
Hanway believes this rapid expansion will lead to many 'unintended problems', unless a 'best-practice urban design methodology' is adopted.
Another concern is the way projects are financed. As most of the schemes need substantial infrastructure, Hanway says land is being sold to the highest bidder with 'limited consideration to a land-use balance', leading to high-density development.
'Although this is a financially viable model at the current time, it is not sustainable over the long run, ' he said.
The craze of building more and more schemes offshore - such as The World and the palm-shaped Nakheel islands - is another future concern.
'There is a danger that the long-term effect of modifying the coastline has yet to be established and that rather than having increased the amount of waterfront, problems will arise from a lack of circulation, water stagnation and shifting sand, ' Hanway added.