Image: cityscape from Wong Kar Wai's beautiful 2046 (2004).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Easing Back In...: "cynicism in the face of mile-high towers"

Just to get a ball rolling here again, I wanted to point out some interesting questions raised over at BLDGBLOG in a post from yesterday. Author Geoff Manaugh is prepping for a panel discussion in Chicago next Saturday titled "Offshoring Audacity." The panel will be discussing the use of the developing countries and desert spaces of the East as laborities for the architectural and urban planning experiments of Western designers and builders.

As usual, the BLDGBLOG read is compelling, a quick and provocative sprint that runs from indoor ski slopes to Heidegger in a nanosecond. It sets up the questions to be consideed at the panel: Should we celebrate architectural audacity, especially as it witnesses designs crossing cultural divides and carrying American or European architects to Abu Dhabi? Or, as my borrowed title suggests, adopt a cautious cynicism, if not fear, of titanic endeavours that grow up almost over night? And, what role should regional or national identity play in all of this?

In other words, is it perhaps weird enough that Atlantis was resurrected from myth and built in the Bahamas, without it being rebuilt again pretty much the same, in Dubai?

These are all questions that make appearances in Chapter 5 of my diss, so more on this topic in coming months. For the time being, I'll just end with posting a rendering of one of the forthcoming Dubai projects that BLDGBLOG references: Park Gate, a 4.7 million square foot complex of "six mid-rise towers linked together by soaring vaulted canopies."

As World Architecture News reports, it will be part of a 12-year, $15 billion building project commissioned for Dubai from US firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill. Funny thing is, it's the first incredibly futuristic, aggressively audacious building project I've read of in a couple of years that hasn't left me with a queasy, paranoid feeling. It looks like an ambitious future site I would actually like to visit, when compared even with the other projects in the plan, 1 Dubai or 1 Park Avenue, both of which leave me with a (perhaps entirely irrational) feeling of dread and fatalism. There's probably some kind of easy urban-emotion version of an ink-splotch test I should take to get at the root or my architectural anxieties... I should look into that before I get back to work on Ch. 5.

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