08 January, 2010

Dubai - an urban planning assessment

Chicago Tribune:
Dubai just opened the ultimate trophy building -- the world's tallest skyscraper, which soars a neck-craning 2,717 feet into the air -- but just try getting there from the airport. Your polite, epaulette-wearing cabdriver screeches down a 12-lane highway and -- with the tower in plain sight -- he goes miles past it, leading you to wonder whether he's lost his way or is ripping you off. Only when he finally reaches an interchange and then doubles back to the tower do you realize what's going on: Dubai wins no medals for urban planning.
Take the palm-shaped, artificial island that adds to Dubai's short supply of lucrative coastal real estate and forms one of the emirate's iconic images. The island is a miraculous engineering achievement, formed by dredged sand and constructed with the aid of a global positioning system. Yet the only way to get a pleasing overview of its thin, frond-like strips of sand is to look at a map or charter a helicopter. At ground level, the fronds are packed with high-priced villas while the stemlike road leading to them is lined with monolithic rows of hulking apartment buildings. These look as though they were designed by architectural refugees from East Germany who added a few Islamic touches.
Indeed, Monday's abrupt renaming of the tower from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa -- in honor of the Abu Dhabi sheik who bailed Dubai out of its debt crisis last fall -- only underscores the impression of helter-skelter growth here.
The exception?
The shining exception is the still-unfinished Dubai Metro system, which opened last September and was designed by a team that included the Middle Eastern offices of two global firms, Aedas and Atkins. The mostly elevated line here is driverless and automated, with air-conditioned cars and stations (the better to ward off summer heat that rises to 120 degrees). The stations, with their boldly sculpted golden roofs, wisely make this civil engineering project visible rather than anonymous. They can thus be counted upon to draw riders and nearby development that will cut down on car use and save energy.
Another exception: "Its old downtown, located along the creek that bespeaks the emirate's fishing village and trading post origins, is a charmer, with arcaded old marketplaces, or souks, and picturesque wooden water taxis ferrying Dubaians back and forth across the creek. Here are age-old lessons of walkable streets, mixed uses and the use of aged buildings that form still-relevant models for planning cities."


Lirun said...

very engaging story

B.D. said...

So, how is Jumeirah Palm any better or any more worthwhile if it were minus the buildings on it? Of course, if a clear view of it is what the Chicago writer wants then all he'll need to do is buy or rent a flat in one of the many nearby towers in the Marina and elsewhere.

And so he had to do a few spins before reaching the Burj. Why didn't he just mention that the big interchange that would probably get him directly to the tower was still under construction?

In "good journalism" it doesn't really matter how accurate the story is as much as how nicely it reads. Presenting the reader irony and contradictions in a descriptive narrative reads oh so nicely, but what has it got to do with truth?

HE said...

Very well said B.D.,

And which 12 lane highway is he talking about? to get from the airport to the Burj you don't need to take the highway.

I can see half the Palm from my place of work - Media City, it looks fabolous.

Lirun, don't believe this shite, it's not an engaging story. It's boring and baseless.

Kyle said...

The shining exception is the still-unfinished Dubai Metro system..that will cut down on car use and save energy.

Yeah right!

I've already seen a humongous (carbon-footprint) reduction, starting with the # of wheels on roads here.

Anonymous said...

You can take SZR when going from the airport to Burj Dubai, and it is 6 lanes each way, so it indeed a 12 lane highway

Anonymous said...

Why be so defensive? It is not all negative. He does praise have some praise for downtown Dubai.

The drive to the Palm IS full of ghetto like structures. He is right about that. It does look too cluttered.

Ditto would have happened to the World if the Universe would have been allowed... the views would have been ruined.

Most buildings in Marina overlook another. By Dubai standards they are not like the lovely jumeirah beach road but like Golden sands where you are doomed to look at your neighbour's balcony forever.

But, of course, how dare anyone comment on it! The very thought! Even if you build the tallest tower only for publicity and grandiosity, how dare anyone think they can say anything critical!

HE said...

Anon 10.17, oh ok, SZR right. But this is what got me,

" screeches down a 12-lane highway and -- with the tower in plain sight -- he goes miles past it,..."

Really? miles past it?, if you drive from the airport to the Burj you do not go past it at all,

Anyway, I think the writer wanted a special bridge built for him, straight from the airport to the Burj, - non stop, no traffic lights, no turns, no roundabouts, just a straight bridge.

"They gave the people a city made of gold, the people complained that everything looks yellow"

Anonymous said...

Please don't deny that urban planning is one of Duabi's shortcomings. In this land of roundabouts and no-left-turns, where heading the wrong direction will lose you 15-20 minutes of your life, it's pitiful. Is this a British concept, this no-left-turns? 'Cause damn.

Dubai travel deals said...

One of the latest fads is “smart growth,” which seeks to increase the density of urban development. O’Toole’s hometown of Portland has embraced this fad. There, an urban growth boundary limits the expansion of developed areas.

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