27 October, 2007

Dubai's architecture

The Washington Post has a long essay on Dubai's architecture, and the contrast with Abu Dhabi. I won't attempt to summarize. Read the whole thing here.


nick said...

Brilliant analysis and j'accuse of Dubai at large. Thanks for linking.

Kyle said...

and a cultural complex that will bring the fruits of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the intellectual adventures of modernity into a land where materialism and exploitation are rampant and democracy nonexistent. Or are they just more advertisement for the Emirates model, empty husks that won't serve culture, but hold it captive for the amusement of world's luckiest and richest citizens?

I couldn't have analyzed it any better.

Again, thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

"world's luckiest and richest citizens?"

just look at the above statment...woooooow brilliant analysis...for ppl who no nothing

SevenSummits said...

Thanks for the link also from me :-)

@ Anon
Give your comprehension skills another try pls.

american in dubai said...

Kyle - I found that same quote repulsive. The author seems to think that "culture" should only exist in democratic nations which don't exploit others and aren't materialist, because after all, they already have "culture". Obviously this is all code for Europe (not America) - and the author thinks "culture" should be reserved for Europeans, who can then look down from their ivory tower at the uncultured Arabs in their desert. This article is simply racism with a thin veneer of intellectual respectability in the form of architectural criticism.

Anonymous said...

Now what democracy has to do with materialistic progress of a country? Is democracy, or rather the version of democracy we see in the "civilized" world today the real democracy? I mean bullying weaker countries into submission? Is this the real spirit of democracy or the hallmark of a democratic nation?

I smell "hypocrisy" here. Why the double standards?

Thank you American in Dubai for your realistic comment :-)

Editor said...

Hi guys,
I was quite lucky to spot the article right at the time when was published.
Well......I disagree with the position of the author. However I appreciate some of the analyses - quite accurate.
So: I kept the most of the content, changed some of the nasty remarks and insinuations, added some links and here it is a similar article more to my test:

Kyle said...

American in Dubai – I think what the author is trying to prove in his article (as a whole) is the absurdness or rather lack of original ideas.

When I first heard that icons such as Guggenheim & Louvre would be having a branch here, to say I was surprised is too mild an expression. What for, I asked myself? What would their presence accomplish? Until it occurred to me that they would just be showpieces to attract the crowd, a (rich) crowd without any aroused intellectual curiosity. If that’s the case, then their presence here is already a waste of time, energy, space and funds, which could be used for betterment of mankind rather than using them for guided tours without any real benefit.

Look, I have no problem them being based here, just as long nobody tries to shove me the idea that they will contribute to culture & intellectualism. Hell, line up as many equivalents and have them based here, just don’t expect a round of applause from me.

Might I add 'borrowed connotation, in place of originality, lacks class'!

At the risk of sounding negative, I wonder to what extent their presence here would make a difference.

That remains to be seen!

As for your comment about a thin veneer of intellectual respectability versus architectural criticism, it all stems from the fact this place lacks in terms of ethics, exposure and a free thought process while materialism and exploitation float in abundance.

Anybody denying these are doomed to a lifetime in fool's paradise!

Editor said...

sorry but you are not quite right. As we all know Abu Dhabi is a rich emirate and Dubai (even poorer) is not poor either. Riches were already here long before the Sadiyat Island project was announced.
Please forgive me, but I can't understand your point: do you mean that at the entrances of the museums visitors should present their bank statements to be let in?? ..........and only few who claim to not have one will be lucky?????
From my point of view the article gives undeserved negative impression. It is not the first time Washingtonpost's editors express such views.
I guess, would be a good idea Mubadala to offer few of them contacts.........perhaps their prospectives will change according to their bank statements.

Editor said...

Sorry, I meant: Mubadala to offer them CONTRACTS.

american in dubai said...

Kyle: The point of Saadiyat Island is that it will bring "culture" (whatever that is) to Abu Dhabi. You seem to think that people will walk in and out of art museums and be totally unaffected by what they see. Actually, most people who go in the first place are inspired or at least admire some of the works they see. It doesn't mean they suddenly become "cultured" or "intellectuals" but it's likely they'll have some appreciation of art they didn't have before. Perhaps some will become artists. Over time, these institutions contribute to the emergence of a more free intellectual atmosphere and a more vibrant culture than exists now. Some elements of that culture will be borrowed (and what culture doesn't borrow?) and others will be home-grown. We have to take the long-term view here (something I think Abu Dhabi is much better at doing than Dubai!).

dg - I'm glad you think I'm "realistic", but your comment about hypocrisy and US foreign policy has nothing to do with my comment on the article, unless I'm missing something.

Anonymous said...

american in dubai: Well my friend, that statement was not in response to your comment. It was directed at the author of the article & many people of his tribe who think that democracy is the answer to all the problems of the world & that they are morally right when they try to force democracy on other people.

Sorry for the confusion :-)

Kyle: You think that "the author is trying to prove in his article (as a whole) is the absurdness or rather lack of original ideas".

Can you please explain what you mean by the original ideas?

Kyle said...

American in Dubai – I hope you’re right about the long-term view but I’ll take the pessimistic route, for now, unless I stand corrected in time.

Kyle said...

DG - An original idea means one keeps their identity and heritage in mind while chalking out all aspects of development.

nick said...

@ american in dubai,

The author seems to think that "culture" should only exist in democratic nations which don't exploit others and aren't materialist, because after all, they already have "culture".

That's not at all what the article and its underlying criticism was about. Read again.

What he criticises is the mentality of instant gratification that degrades culture to an off the shelf product that is to be acquired like a car or other luxuries.
This is patently the case by employing a bunch of star architects to generate hype and an environment that will be completely detached from the local and regional culture.
It is patently not original but follows in the vein of Bilbao etc. - but that's not even really a problem in itself I think: Better to copy a successful concept than think up one by themselves, which is something I'd like to write into RTA's book for example...

No. the issue is this prevailing belief that everything can be bought and created by throwing enough money at it. NOT!!

(Btw. I don't think this misguided belief is limited to Dubai or AD. It's just that they have the money here to do it.)

american in dubai said...

@Nick: each of us will read the same article and interpret it differently - such is the joy of reading and debate. There is more than one legit response to almost any written piece.

As for whether culture can be copied, bought, and that's the end of it: I don't get the sense that y'all are looking at the long term here. In the long run, these institutions will integrate with the region and something new will be produced (but I've already said this, so I won't go into detail again). One interesting thing about living here is seeing the beginnings of a new society - nothing (manners, driving habits, gender roles, etc.) has been "settled" or commonly accepted by everyone.

No culture ever survived on its own. They borrow, hire, and steal from each other; it's what keeps things vital and fresh and interesting. Artworks have always been purchased or sponsored by someone - the notion that culture is independent of money is idealistic but unfortunately utopian.

A German friend of mine read the article and said, you know, you see a sort of jealousy of the nouveaux riche all the time - whether it's Europeans criticizing those upstart Americans, or East Coasters in America looking down at the (much newer) West Coast, or "northern Arabs" looking down at the Khaleejis. Someone else makes money and starts looking just a bit better and all the old snobs say: well, they just have money, but no soul. But given time, the new rich become as cultured as the old rich...

One final point: at least they're spending billions on art museums. Anyone have any better ideas?

proshoper.dubai said...

The Saadiyat Island project will future more than 10 different museums. One of which (most probably the largest one) is dedicated to Sheikh Zayed. Another one is the Maritime Museum. It's not: "This is patently the case by employing a bunch of star architects to generate hype and an environment that will be completely detached from the local and regional culture."
Please have a look at some of my (amateur) pictures from the displays at the Emirates Palace Hotel: http://abudhabimuseum.blogspot.com/

nick said...


I agree that there is a lot of high brow cultural snobbery emanating especially from Europe.

You are right in that culture grows and integrates foerign influences. This presumes openess and acceptance of other ways.

The difference is that foreigners here - unlike the immigrants to the States from the 19th century onwards - do not have a stake in the future of the country and society.
The indigenous culture is negligable. One room in Sharjah museum is enough for that.

No, what you have here is not an environment conducive to fostering and growing a varied new culture.

It's a one way street, to the cash counter.

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