Monday, March 03, 2008

Bigger is Better...

(Office of Metropolitan Architecture, via The New York Times)

At least that seems to be the running theme when it comes to all things Dubai. Just take a look at the craziness coming from the minds of OMA. A city, rising from the sands of the desert. With the Deathstar as a center piece.

The sheer size of the development boggles the mind. I mean, six and half square miles, built from scratch? And, given the rate things are going out there, probably done within the next 5 years? Le Corbusier could only dream of such things when he was drawing his radiant city.

Mr. Ouroussoff's opinion is an cautiously optimistic one, seeing success in even its failure. But his assessment assumes a fact that I am not sure I agree with: that if they built it, they will come.

Not that the money pouring into the region will draw a significant population. But to fill all this? Mr. Ouroussoff's concern is that the communities will turn into gated enclaves of the super-rich. But, what about the other, quite possible, outcome? A ghost town of the few, fighting against the unrelenting sands?

Are there really enough people migrating to Dubai to fill all that is being built, and planned to be built? I can't fathom what exodus these planners imagine causing the migration. Perhaps the thousands of bankers finding Wall street unwelcoming will make there way there. Even then, that would fill, what, one or two of the mega skyscraper residences being built. And, unless they plan to give away flats for free, I'm guessing the developments currently underway are not going to be filled by the workers brought in to build them.

As an exercise in design, this project would be a wonderous opportunity for any firm. The magnitude of this project allows for the investigation of ideas through number of scales, considering the complex connections that define a modern urban experience. But, the reality? One can only do so much before the economics take over. And even the richest developer has a budget.

But, well, hey, I might be wrong. Dubai is a place of fantasy, a world quite literally unto itself. It is the playground of starchitects, where whimsy and imagination have free reign. It is perhaps a dream coming true. Maybe that's why seeing the Death Star floating on a man-made island makes so much sense. Dubai is a fictional world brought to life, a sci-fi movie set for an imagined life that, somehow, became real.


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