11 October, 2008

Dubai set for ecological disaster

I told you so. Follow link to full article in "building design", the UK's foremost architecture weekly magazine.


"Dubai set for ‘ecological disaster’ "

[P] ritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne has predicted that Dubai will become an “ecological disaster” if development there continues in its current direction.

In a dramatic speech delivered on Tuesday to the World Architecture Congress’s Cityscape Dubai conference, the US architect said the private sector’s dominance in the Gulf state had led to a lack of joined-up planning and that this — combined with the immense speed of development — would lead to a major crisis in the future.

“It is not going to work on may levels, from social to infrastructure and ecological”

In his speech, Mayne compared Dubai’s public transport plans with the development of Los Angeles in the 1960s, claiming the “political class” had no control over the built environment.

“There is no connected tissue,” he said. “It might work today, but the prognosis is not good for the future.“It’s not going to work on many levels, from social to infrastructure and ecological. It’s going to be a disaster in ecological terms.“The political class is no longer in charge of cities… which means there is no planning.
Los Angeles is a prototype for that. The private sector rules. It takes hours to get downtown in LA as there is no public transport.”

Former RIBA president George Ferguson hailed Mayne’s intervention.“It’s a transport nightmare, it’s an energy nightmare. It is absolutely bloody terrifying.


Anonymous said...

Sounds more like someone's jealous of Dubai. Unlike the US which is collapsing on its credit problems, Dubai is showing its ambitions and foresight of its leaders by going ahead with multi-billion dollar projects, I can understand if this makes some Americans jealous.....

Proud Emirati said...

We want our beaches back ...

Keefieboy said...

Anonymous, sounds like you are a moron.

the real nick said...

proud emirati,

me too, I want the beaches back but not ull of E.coli.
The sewage pumping scandal is significant because it is not really the fault of three moronic pakistani truck drivers who don't want to wait eight hours at the sewage treatment plant.
It's the fault of shortsighted inadequate and imcompetent infrastructure planning, or rather, the lack of planning by authorities.

Exactly what Thom Mayne critized.

Abu Dhabi Blogger said...

Surprise, surprise!
Nice to see an expert pointing out the obvious in an intelligent way. And what's nicer is that it ties in well with Cityscape hehe!

CG said...

PE, I want Dubai back waaaa

Keefie, Most anons are.

I personally know nothing about building or infrastructure, but I do know that Dubai is a city that for the first time in 30 years I do not recognise and find myself using a map and gps to navigate around. As for traffic (makes me choke, just saying the word),I can tell you that this summer I drove from London to Southampton in the same amount of time it takes me to drive from one end of Jumeirah to another at 8 am. I have to agree that something is wrong.

Nature Strikes Back said...

Not enough people think about sewage... or trash! Dubai is the fastest growing city in the world, already has one of the highest amounts of waste per capita and no coherent national recycling programme. I don't know where the trash goes but I assume most of it is buried in the desert. There are some toxic time bomb type issues associated with this too especially as the city expands out into what used to be 'distant desert'. Didn't the sewage plant now next door to International City used to be a long way out into the desert?

Seabee said...

In many ways the development, size and speed, isn't the problem. The problem is the total lack of town planning.

If the whole thing had a master plan, which included roads, public transport, power generation, water supply, sewage treatment, medical facilities, police, fire brigade etc it would have worked.

When Sheikh Mohammed announced the freehold law change and his vision for the future the first work should have been the master plan.

But there was no plan, they stayed with their old souk trading mindset of simply buying and selling. So we have individual developments popping up at the same time all over the place. No-one even knows who's responsible for the infrastructure in them. The developer finishes his project, asks for power and water and is told it's a private development so it's his responsibility to provide it.

And there still seems to be no law to make developers provide adequate parking space for any building they put up.

If there had been a master plan the Metro would have been up and running three or four years ago, the hundreds of new buses would have been gradually delivered over the last few years. Power stations, desalination plants, sewage treatment would all have been constructed at the same time as the other developments instead of years after them.

They had the perfect opportunity to observe the mistakes and problems of other cities and to avoid them, because they started with a completely blank canvas, an empty desert.

They had the opportunity to create a city which didn't have the problems other cities struggle with. And they blew it.

Anonymous said...

wow.. seabee.. couldnt have said it any better. Nice job mate.!

Mohammed said...

Most of the problems stem from aparticular mindset; a mindset which believes that things like pre-planning , safety regulations, and anything that seems restrictive is against Dubai's plans and ambitions.
In other words, if you say "Lets create infrastructure first", you are unambitious, slow, and unwilling to take on the risks.

Also, I can assume that such problems will be dismissed with the "all growing cities have problems" tagline, even though as Seabee said, Dubai started with a clean slate and had an opportunity to avoid many problems cities like London, Seoul or LA.

So until the developer saying "screw infrastructure, it will take care of itself, lets build as much as we can as fast we can" is seen as being reckless rather than "pioneering, ambitious developer", such problems will continue

Anonymous said...

Actually Dubai was way ahead in planning infrastrucure in the 80's and 90's, but could not keep with the developments after turn of century, as the ripple had become quite bigger and beyond control!! The influx of population is not organic, which had compounded the proble, Now, it has come to a critical stage, where the concerned are throwing their hands up!! Thom Mayne is quite accurate in what he has predicted for Dubai, and we are already heading in that direction. Dubai should show rational behind their breakneck speed, and try to built best in class infrastructure, which can withstand and sustain beyond the surface !!!!

Kyle said...


A good analysis.

By the way, do you think there's any possibility left for these guys to go back to the drawing board, chalk out these flaws, and find a solution?

Or better yet, say if there was a scant possibility, would these guys opt for rectification or just carry on without a concern for these flaws?

Personally, I feel they should have appointed an Urban Development Committee/Board of Specialists to oversee all their ambitious projects. This lack, thereof, spells the ecological disaster originally put forth by Thom Mayne and highlighted here by Nick!

Love it Or Leave it said...

CG LOL, you're funny.
I was just saying within a year all the places I associate with my childhood will be gone, then I will be a stranger in this land...and I am a local...

It is just depressing...
I guess it is love it or leave it for us Emiratis too

i*maginate said...

so much of the crap that comments needs to cleverly invest or get the f* out.

the real nick said...


so you think that "cleverly investing" will somehow immunize you against overdevelopment and lack of infrastructure? You think that your "clever" investment will hold its inflated value when nobody will want to buy it because you can't get in or out the building because of the gridlock?

Good luck.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
i*maginate said...

nick, that don't make a difference to most of the ppl/institutions that invest in dxb, now does it lol

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember playing Sim City back in the 90's? A town planning game - if, as Mayor, you didn't put your infrastructure in your city would fail to properly develop and the population would fail to thrive with all enusing hassles for the Mayor.

Engr. said...


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