Arquitectura Viva
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arquitectura Viva 111


Del Golfo a La Meca, construcciones en la arena
XI-XII 2006

From the Gulf to Mecca. From the coast of the Arab Emirates to the historic center of the Holy City, the towns of the Arabian Peninsula have set out to diversify their sources of income, mostly dependent until now on the diminishing oil and natural gas reserves. The huge profits obtained are invested in ambitious real estate operations with eyes set on designing ‘global’ spaces for leisure where the center of attention is the guest, who is welcomed into an extraordinary world of luxury and spectacle.


Rafael de La-Hoz
Extreme Conditions
Mike Davis
Sinister Paradise
Javier Montes
And in Arcadia, the Egos
Brigitt Schultz
Besieged Sanctuary

Qatar. With the construction of a prestigious multicultural university this wealthy emirate hopes to become the Gulf’s think tank.
Abu Dhabi. Capital of the United Arab Emirates, it was planned at the beginning of the 1990s following a model of ideal city for 600,000 inhabitants. Today the population has doubled and the grid traced then is saturated, so the city has embarked on a process of expansion towards the neighboring islands. The most important intervention is that of Saadiyat Island, which will have branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums.
Dubai. With a twentieth part of the oil reserves of Abu Dhabi, this emirate has discovered luxury tourism. Eager to lure visitors and investors, the city wishes to break records in every single project it undertakes, launching itself into a tireless construction of a fictional metropolis.
Ras al-Khaimah. In a privileged natural site with mountains and white sand beaches, this emirate has joined the fast pace of its neighbors, developing a tourism that is more respectful of the environment.

Nouvel, Office Tower
Isozaki & others, ECQ Campus
Gehry, Guggenheim Museum
Nouvel, Louvre Museum
Hadid, Theater
Ando, Sea Museum
Foster, Central Market
La-Hoz & Lamela, Tower
Lamela, Islamic Bank
Nouvel, Opera
Hadid & Schumacher, Towers
RUR, O4 Tower
A-cero, Wave Tower
Snøhetta, Gateway Building
OMA, Mountain Resort
OMA, Convention Center

Views and Reviews

From Pritzker to Mies. The director of the Venice Biennial that awarded the Golden Lion to Richard Rogers shares his thoughts on the English Lord; and an interview shows the evolution of the work of Mansilla & Tuñón.

Art / Culture

Ricky Burdett
A Pritzker to Commitment
Luis Fernández-Galiano
After the Mies to the MUSAC

Modern Centenarians. The author of a monograph on Eero Saarinen and a Latin American critic who is an expert on the oeuvre of Óscar Niemeyer analyze the significance of these two masters of American modernity. Antonio Román
Another Modernity
Roberto Segre
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Philosophers and Architects. The recent publication of a book about the hut of Martin Heidegger in the Black Forest prompts a reflection on the close connection between philosophy and architecture. Focho’s Cartoon
Lacaton & Vassal
Various Authors
Recent Projects

Three Works by Steven Holl. The historian Kenneth Frampton reviews two very different proposals – a prism tucked between two buildings and a volume of free-flowing geometry – for university facilities in New York and Iowa. The critic Paul Goldberger, for his part, comments on the recently inaugurated extension of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas, a challenging intervention on a building of 1933 in which the five glass pieces embedded in the hill set up a dialogue with the original structure.

Technique / Style

SANAA (Sejima & Nishizawa)
School of Design, Essen
Toyo Ito
Crematorium, Kakamigahara
Kengo Kuma
Chokkura Plaza, Takanezawa

To close, Koolhaas examines the real estate boom of the Gulf emirates, and suggests an unprejudiced, open-minded approach to a global phenomenon that may well be the last opportunity for urban planning today. English Summary
From the Gulf to Mecca
Rem Koolhaas
The Gulf
Luis Fernández-Galiano

Next East

AViva-111-lfg.jpg (10184 bytes)The Persian Gulf was first associated with oil, then with weapons and today with real-estate, but wells, aircraft carriers and skyscrapers are terms of an equation that links energy, war and construction in a vicious triangle. This powder keg of the planet is being quickly urbanized with Western patterns and global capitals, in the hot core of an Islamic world fractured by conflicts and driven both by humiliation and defiance. The real-estate, financial and touristic development of the small Gulf estates takes place in a geopolitical frame delimited to the south by the Saudi theocracy, to the north by the almost nuclear Iran of the Ayatollahs and to the west by a string of crises that rip from Lebanon and a divided Palestine to an occupied, civil war-torn Iraq.

It is not fair to present the trophy architectures of these islands of prosperity without making reference to the ocean of storms surrounding them, and here we have tried to depict this context both through the description of the offensively unequal social system that supports them and through the extension of the journey along the Gulf coast to the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, with an incursion in Mecca that highlights the paradoxical contrasts of the Wahhabi hypermodernity, that raises skyscrapers around the Kaaba and connects it with a high-speed train to Medina while the non-Muslim designers are banned access to the holy cities, and while in the Arabia Felix of Yemen, at the other end of the Peninsula, Al Qaeda and mysery live side by side.

In the Western imagination – and even more so since 9/11 – Muslims are ‘the other’, and it is not possible to speak of the real-estate boom of the Gulf as an urban experience devoid of its Arab setting, hardly more than a last chapter of the modernization episodes already experienced in Asia’s Pacific rim. The Islamist terrorist attacks have fed the conscience of a conflict of civilizations that in some European countries is added to their difficulty in integrating Muslim immigration, and even to the epic origins of their own identity, from La Chanson de Roland to the Cantar de Mío Cid. Advocating the existence of an Islamo-Christian civilization, evoking the success of the term Judeo-Christian to fight anti-semitism, is a well-meaning but hazy hypothesis.

The spectacle architecture and generic urbanism of the Gulf are spurious fruits of Western modernity: the closest thing to a real-estate fair in Kuwait or Dubai is another one in London or Cannes. In the meantime, the West and Islam get caught up in a web of misunderstandings and reproaches that go from the use of the veil or the Mohammed caricatures to the Pope’s speech in Ratisbona, and which have their architectural dimension in the controversies about minarets in Switzerland or Germany and about mosques in Great Britain, the Netherlands or Spain. These are religious wars similar to past ones between Catholics and Protestants, and if the Gulf offers the draft of a material and symbolic convergence, then the Near East may well become our dark near future.

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