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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 February 2021

A dose of reality

Al Manakh 2, one of the few publications that will give you some theoretical background to what's been going on in architecture and urban design in the region, is about to hit the stands. The book is the second part of what I hope they will make into a series of books about the Gulf. Rem Koolhaas, who oversees the project with funding from the Urban Planning Council, is probably one of the few internationally known starchitects who really appreciates Dubai as a great experiment in city-making.

The first book was more of a collection of the visions, a "photographic documentary, in text and images" of Dubai and other capitals of the Gulf. The sequel is about how these countries are faring after the financial crisis cut some of the dreams short. Read Simeon Kerr's piece in the Financial Times for more context.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction from Mr Koolhaas:

Where pre-crisis Dubai was ridiculed for its unchecked surrender to Anglo-Saxon modes of development, post-crisis Dubai has been blamed by its American and European critics for not being immune to Wall Street's toxic corruption. 'Model Dubai' has bitten the dust, maybe forever, he writes. But in fact, such a reading only reinforces our initial accusation of laziness: Dubai is an entirely different construct, the brainchild of a local minority that generously invited manpower and expertise from everywhere to assemble an artificial community, to test, explore and put into practice the relationship between Islam and modernity. Where a Western perspective could only register unguided frivolity, Dubai from an Iranian perspective would represent freedom; from an Indian, opportunity; to an Arab, the hope that Arab modernity can work.

If that kind of talk gets you thinking, then come to the Paris Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi on Reem Island this Thursday at 6 p.m. to hear him speak in person. Here's the invite.

Published: May 11, 2010 04:00 AM

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