Aaahhh! Stop the Insanity! Dubai Builds Another Artificial Island - Waterfront City

Waterfront City

Back in the day, when Dubai was still a little fledgling desert city and the ruling tribe was envisioning their plans for Dubai's future growth, the leaders and developers of Dubai turned to other successful global cities in the world such as Hong Kong, Singapore and New York City as examples. Now in 2008, thanks to Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, they no longer have to emulate New York City, he is designing their very own island of Manhattan.

I only have one thing to say.... Aaahhhhhhh!!!

Has the sun and heat in Dubai melted his brain too? As a Pritzker winning architect he should know better. Perhaps he is being blinded by his huge ego. On Nakheel's website (the developer) - they claim that they are "transforming 1.4 billion square feet of empty desert and sea into an international community...twice the size of the Hong Kong island." Waterfront City, as this project is known, will be located in Jebel Ali, right next to one of the three giant Palm Islands. Perhaps this a test to see how many outrageously large man-made islands they can build in the Persian Gulf until they completely destroy the entire eco-system?

According to the New York Times article by Nicolai Ouroussoff, where I first read about this project, the main part of this development will be an island that will be divided into 25 blocks. Each block will be densely packed with rows of towers of different shapes and sizes. But just so that no-one mistakes it as an exact slice of Manhattan, Koolhaas has proposed two outlandish buildings. The first is an 82-story tower in the same shape as the minaret of the Great Mosque of al-Mutawakkil in Samarra, Iraq. The second, brings me back to my architecture history classes long, long ago - a 44-story sphere much like those designed by Etienne-Louis Boullee in the 18th century. (See below).
Interior shot of the sphere
This artificial island will form a perfect square apparently - an isolated metropolis with a moat. The towers will be concentrated around the southern edge to provide some shade to the interior blocks from the harsh desert sun. Great! Just what Dubai needs, more curtain wall high-rises, so that they can continue to increase the amount of energy used per capita. (The citizens of UAE already consume the largest amount of energy per capita in the world). Additionally, anyone who has been to Dubai can attest - the last thing Dubai needs as part of its urban plan is more isolated communities. Since Dubai has never had the luxury of developing organically and is instead a random collection of freakishly large urban projects - the overall city plan is extremely disjointed. You have no alternative but to drive from one destination to another - because there is absolutely nothing to see or experience in between them. What Dubai needs to focus on is the connective tissue between these projects and not just adding to these monstrous developments. Unless of course their goal is to rival any circus freak show.

My frustration however, is not just with the leadership of Dubai, it is also with the architect. Is there no obligation on the part of the architect - who is trained to know better, to advise the client into developing more thoughtful, environmentally and socially sensitive projects? Or does it always come down to big egos and big money?

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