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Newsflash: "Dubai would like to be taken seriously."
by Katy Purviance on 04/01/08 @ 01:25:12 pm
Categories: Architects, Articles | 364 words | 1037 views

Dubai’s adolescent period of putting up the biggest, tallest, and blingiest buildings is finally maturing into the tastefully avant-garde with a little help from our friends, The World’s Most Popular Architects.

(That might make a good name for a firm. Or for a Saturday morning cartoon that only we addicts watch.)

Jean Nouvel is designing an opera house for Dubai and a branch of the Louvre next door in Abu Dhabi; the Oslo firm Snohetta has designed a “gateway”; Zaha Hadid is building a skyscraper and a massive office complex, (she’s doing the opera house in Abu Dhabi); in January Norman Foster revealed plans to build an eco-city for half a million people in the Persian Gulf, and, last week, designs for the Abu Dhabi World Trade centre; and, busiest of all, there’s Rem Koolhaas, with office complexes galore and a his new Waterfront City, unveiled this month.

This list of stellar architects marks a shift, according to the director of planning for Dubai, Rashad Bukash. “We want to change what people think of us. Dubai would like to be taken seriously.”

The place has had some bad press lately. It wasn’t just that the city resembled a tart’s boudoir. It wasn’t just the logic, or lack of it, of building a megalopolis where daily temperatures of 50C (122F) require air-con on a Herculean scale and the largest per-capita carbon footprint in the world. Last year there were also reports of poor working conditions in Dubai’s labour camps, home to the hundreds of thousands of workers, largely from South Asia, who build these icons. Chief among the critics was the left-wing architect Mike Davis whose book Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism, called Dubai “a nightmare of the past: Speer meets Disney on the shores of Araby”.

At least the United Arab Emirates has signed the Kyoto treaty. I guess so have we…we just haven’t, you know, made it official by ratifying it.

It’s only been a few years since the UAE has signed on. Since then, Dubai has developed CO2 recovery technology, solar power, water recycling and desalination plants, while new codes mean “all new skyscrapers will be green”.

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