Tuesday, November 13, 2007
When is tradition outweighed by advancement? Although we couldn’t say what we would do to either save tradition or move forward, it is very clear what Dubai plans to do. Dubai can either refer to one of the seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the eastern Arabian Peninsula, or that emirate's main city, sometimes called "Dubai city" to distinguish it from the emirate. The modern emirate of Dubai was created with the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. However, written accounts documenting the existence of the city have existed at least 150 years prior to the formation of the UAE. Dubai shares legal, political, military and economic functions with the other emirates within a federal framework, although each emirate has jurisdiction over some functions such as civic law enforcement and provision and upkeep of local facilities. Dubai has the largest population and is the second largest emirate by area, after Abu Dhabi.
Revenues from petroleum and natural gas contribute less than 6% (2006) of Dubai's US$ 37 billion economy (2005). A majority of the emirate's revenues are from the Jebel Ali free zone authority (JAFZA) and, increasingly, from tourism and other service-oriented businesses. Dubai has attracted world-wide attention through innovative real estate projects. But it doesn’t stop at innovative, it goes completely beyond to another plane.
This plane is one I would call Romanticism, should one look to the past for new design ideas? A similar situation was experienced in the United States when the Modernist movement took over design. Form should only follow function and nothing from the past was needed to move forward. Romanticism was born out of this mindset, claiming that it was ok to borrow from the past to make new aesthetics. It was a split situation, just the same as the designers who visited Dubai found themselves in. The conference held in Dubai discussing some of these issues was attended by Luke Williams the Creative Director of Frog Magazine and he feels that the city reflects western design but also holds on to some middle east traditions. He compared his stay to Las Vegas. Marcel Wanders made another Las Vegas comparison about the lager than life Burj Hotel that resembles the Sydney opera house on the outside but a lounge on the inside. While this city is growing faster than any on earth, it might not be getting where it needs to go. Apparently, some buildings are having traffic flow issues and have to be reconsidered. This to me show lack of consideration to way-finding, especially important to a tourist attraction that must cater to the ergonomics of all cultures. I feel that this city is desperate for tourism. The “world” that is currently under construction shows the shear massive collective that is going into all this. It is an extremely huge, massive, out of this world development that can be seen from space. Williams’s thoughts promoted the need for more processes of design. How can we shape things and make the world a better place? This idea can’t be over looked for this construction of a second world. I understand what this Arabic nation is trying to do but every speaker at this conference, including Oliveria Toscana, seemed to want more simplified design with culture and tradition in mind but the future being most important, the past with a “twist” as Wanders put it. I personally feel it’s over the top, it looks too needy. An indoor ski slope in a tropical zone? I don’t know but Disney World and Las Vegas better watch out because the Middle East is the new hot spot, and however poorly designed, it’s shear size and decadence will define its revenue. If its people would stop judging designers and its designers would step out of pre-conceived ideas I think that Dubai will be the new “place to be”