Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Big Brother's REALLY watching.

This comes about a month behind, but here's a sneak peak at what Rem Koolhaas has "architectured" for an island in Dubai that aspires to be... well, Manhattan.

Image courtesy of The New York Times; you can read the article here.

The round building... no, object... has been likened to the Death Star, which featured rather prominently in Star Wars (I have no idea which episode):

Looks more like a giant eyeball watching over the city to me... Can you say "Here's looking at you, kid"?

Well, make your own judgement.

Lebbeus Woods, architecture theorist and artist extraordinaire, has. (I say this because I'm a big fan of his drawings, many of which are very post-apocalyptic, for lack of a better description.) Read his blog entry, Delirious Dubai, here.

His blog's a very good read actually - ideas abound, and comments and criticisms of these ideas abound.

He says this of Dubai:

"...built up rapidly over the past few years on the wealth gotten from the world’s greed for oil—and more recently as an unregulated sanctuary for cash—it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate neo-liberal Utopia."

And of Koolhaas' proposal, he asks:

What, for example, are the space-organization possibilities of networks of information exchange, rather than streets? What are the architectural design possibilities of synthetics, rather than steel or concrete building frames typical of high-rise construction? What are the possibilities for increasing choices in non-hierarchically organized urban spaces, rather than classical, Cartesian systems? And so on—the list of new possibilities is long.

It's with quite a bit of irony to me, that Koolhaas, who, fifteen years ago, so heavily criticised Singapore in the highly-exalted bumper book S, M, L, XL for being a tabula rasa haven for being almost exactly what Dubai is today, is pandering to and relishing in the bland tastes that these very tabula rasa scenarios emanate... and dare I imagine, cashing in in the process.
Woods has this to say, in closing:
"Or maybe he believes, true to his post-Modernist roots, that the past offers the best model for the future ... Or maybe he simply doesn’t have a vision for the future. ... The world’s attention is focused on Dubai, and on Koolhaas and other architecture stars, and because—like it or not—what they do is taken as a model for the future, even when it is, how shall I say, not nearly good enough."