Not a fan of Dubai!

It is disorientating looking up at the Burj Kalifa, the world's tallest building at 829.84 meters. It does not blend into an undulating space, like a mountain, or commune with other towers as in New York, it simply erupts from the ground: all shiny and glassy and out of place, belong to no space, it belongs nowhere.

The whole city is like this - it gives off the aura of being a random erection, unplanned, unstructured and just here: wholly arbitrary (though divided into apparently framing districts).

This is rather dispiriting when given that it was built within an autocracy by an autocracy. You may have imagined a greater sense of vision, guiding order and planning. They might have built something altogether new and imaginative. They did not.

The desert here is horizontal, parsimonious of resource, except for heat (and oil) and unattractive. Buildings could have been close quartered, grown from their landscape, created beauty cumulatively and from detail, and used heat, both actively and passively, for energy and shade for cool. They could have represented the place and culture from which they came - close, bound, communal and hospitable. Instead they offer the same profligate, fragmented, competitive image we all have yet magnified.

Here the city squats in its desert for just as long as the extravagant resources it requires to live on can be managed, after which you can see it crumbling into oblivion. It will not be the first time in human history that this sense of over-reaching resource extraction has led to collapse, nor sadly the last.

In the interim, it glitzes across the desert, people trade and exchange and shop and you can admire its chutzpah especially at night when darkness and twinkling lights soften its harshness and disconnection.


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