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Valle Medina and Benjamin Reynolds

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03/14/2009, by palacepalace.com

Notes on Arabic Adoption

Dubai is a double-edged sword. At once there is an encounter with tarnished terrain – a lucid, lagoon of baroness propagated into hard-scaped, impenetrable reality of unprecedented scales. The other, a more global and serious reality, deals with the question of the fixed, temporary and the permanency of architecture now. Dubai garners the wealth to exploit construction at a never-before-seen rate – bypassing values like craftsmanship (the lack of which is a ubiquitous problem), tactility, durability and poignantly, adoption.

The fate of architecture is to become ‘pillar-less’ cages of fragility, non-dependency and un-attachment, suspect to Warhol’s fame but rapidly forced into the shadows of its newer, more ‘world’s biggest’ successor on some other terrain vague in another part of the city with a function that nobody really cares about. The landscape and its migrant labourers that set stone upon it have to admirably and muted, like the deterioration of the value of architecture, handle the changes to their existence, to the point that what really is at stake is survival.

Dubai "Another World".
Dubai “Another World”. Sourced from Photobucket.

The constructed conclusion, is a non-linear array of impersonalities, that change their function over time, not by choreography, but through definition by the State, relocation of resources, flip-sides to economic prosperity and the pressures of the success of capitalistic endeavours. What remains is the mechanical, rhythmic motion of the worker, and the memory of the architect aiming to recreate another masterpiece.

Dubai workers in the shadow of a UAE national.
Dubai workers in the shadow of a UAE national. Sourced from Asia News.

Until the 1950s and the discovery of oil, Dubai was predominantly empty, home to Bedouins and open sand plains. The construction methods were textbook examples of Frampton’s “critical regionalism”; materials hard-packed from the earth, courtyards so as to keep the heat out, intelligent, breathable buildings and clusters allowing sheltered lane ways. It was a workers town, this was the silent vernacular that existed, world’s away from Simmel’s Metropolis. The acceptance of concrete in the 70s as the preferred material terminated any possibility of Dubai having an honest identity and pastiche development thereafter proceeded.

It is the validity of surface and the strength of program/locale that serves as indicators of the sustainability of an architecture’s adornment. The validity of surface is naturally achieved given the age of building, its defiance against ecological circumstance and wrong treatment in the militaristic sense. Dubai is not an old city (The Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 is believed to be the oldest building in Dubai) and does not possess architecture of artefactual significance compared to that of nearby Mashriq.

The Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai, 1787.
The Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai, 1787. Sourced from Trekway.

The strength of program dictates that, for example, a building of religious importance is more likely to be widely adorned than that of a hotel or banking institution. The reproduction of the ‘same-old’, a visible by-product of the industrial revolution and pre-fabricated age, may fight against fiscal pressures but greatly reduce the chances of public adoration. Success stories of modern public adoration in architecture can be found in the youthfulness of the Pompidou and the early works of Lacaton and Vassal – they speak wholeheartedly, honestly and beg for adoption. The pity is the infrastructure of Dubai relies on the tourist turnover. Perhaps the issue is not of the pastiche, copy-paste language of Dubai, but simply that the city is a transient one.

Lacaton, Anne, Vassal, Jean-Philippe, 1984, Straw matting hut, Niamey.
Lacaton, Anne, Vassal, Jean-Philippe, 1984, Straw matting hut, Niamey. Sourced from Lacaton and Vassal.

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