The world’s largest construction site

I have recently returned from the world’s largest construction site.

Tower cranes and trucks everywhere.

30 years ago Dubai started as a poor fishing village at the mouth of natural waterway called Dubai Creek.

Then ‘liquid gold’ was discovered.

Massive roading and electrical infrastructure kicked off a massive explosion of activity and enterprise.

Now 4 million Arabic, Christian, Hindi , agnostic, and other souls, live comfortably in a featureless desert lying between Saudi Arabia and the gulf of Oman, either in architectural undistinguished low rise sprawling housing, or nearer the sky in amazing pirouetting and flamboyant high rise towers.

Town Planning restraints are not evident, and Urban Designers seeking ‘consistency’ clearly not welcome.

By rights Dubai shouldn’t really exist at all with its searing summer temperatures and almost exclusive reliance on desalinated water and the air conditioning of every habitable space.

The staggering amount of construction, directly involving ¼ of the population, is carried out in winter or at night in summer.

There is a race to the sky: The S.O.M designed Burj Khalifa ,at 848m, currently the world’s tallest building is shortly to be overtaken by a nearly 1.0km tall residential tower designed by Santiago Calatrava, at Dubai Creek.

Within the multitude of shopping malls ( at 1200 shops the Mall of Dubai is the largest ), you trip over real estate displays with 1.0% deposits to get you started.

The oil runs out in 2040, but under the benevolent dictatorship of Sheik Rashid al Maktoum (who’s portraits are on billboards all over town), the economy is diversifying: medical tourism, family tourism and technical innovation flourish in a tax free environment.

The sheik has written at least six books on positivity and happiness. His government includes a Minister of Happiness. The sheik has a personal collection of 150 exotic cars.

The airport is now the third largest in the world.

About an hour by car westward ,is the equally amazing city of Abu Dhabi. With the world’s largest and mightily impressive Grand Mosque, a newly opened Jean Novel designed Louvre Museum, and the under construction Frank Gehry Guggenheim, cultural tourism is now added to the mix of the regions attractions.

The good news is that today low energy techniques are being increasingly employed by architects: ‘Sustainable City’ on the city fringe has 500 environmentally self- regulating houses built in a carless environment with 12 ‘bio-domes’ to grow vegetables.

There is no shortage of sun for PV installations.

Natural methods of ventilation such as wind towers are being rediscovered in other developments.

As an architect and a resident of New Zealand, it’s interesting to note the attraction of visitors to the bevy of beautiful buildings. There is no nature, save lovely sunsets, to be seen.

It’s optimistic to note such an example of Billy Connolly’s belief that ‘we all know nature is inherently beautiful, but what should really interest us the most is how we humans add to it’






Leave A Comment