Sunday, July 09, 2006


Who would have thought that like sand dunes and oil, buildings would one day become one of the defining charcteristics of the UAE--thanks to the massive building boom recently begun in Dubai and now spreading across the region.

But, wait a minute... Didn't this already happen in Abu Dhabi in the 1970's with the first oil shock? When I first arrived in the UAE in 2000 and visited Abu Dhabi, what I saw was a wall of buildings stretching up to 6 kilometers wide and 1 kilometer deep. There appeared to be a height limit of 20 stories or so as few buildings went higher, but it seemed a massive amount of construction had been involved to create such a dense urban center.

Now, little more than five years later, what is playing out in Dubai is not completely unprecedented. I wonder if it is not a case of de-ja-vu.

One can clearly make a case that the scale of work progressing now is massive--with so many man-made islands, hundred story towers and the like. But from the barren desert sands to what Abu Dhabi eventually became in the 1980's and 90's, isn't the scale of the transformation now about the same as is was then?

Such an observation, however, even if valid, hardly dampens the sense of awe one feels on seeing the current level of construction. Readers of any of my other blogs may have repeatedly found me commenting that it isn't just the towers or even the islands that impress, as many and as magnificent as they are. Accompanying these is a massive amount of infrastructure development, including the latest announcement of a metro transit system to include up to 5 lines, along with 2 or 3 bridges with up to 20 lanes each, trams, monorails, dozens of interchanges, tunnels... and if all this were not enough a massive new airport is being constructed to supplement the already massive soon-to-be-completed addition to the current airport.

I don't really want to spew out superlatives--as I have been prone to do, on more than one occasion. But that's just what happens when one is awe-struck.

Wealth and success in Dubai today is a measure of the number of high-rise towers there are and their floor counts. By that reckoning, in a few years, Dubai will be the wealthiest and most successful city in the world.

Just Take a Look

A stunningly designed, newly announced tower, The Summit.

A tower whose name provides a story with an interesting turn.

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ORB-UAE - Creative Club said...

I also had the same thought...that what is happening now in Dubai had happened earlier in Abu Dhabi. Good observation!

albob said...

BD, I don't know if you've been to this site already but it's the forum of all forums for news about towers in dubai. This'll take a while to load but there are links to threads on every single tower!!

The fact that the approval process is so fast is one reason why everything comes up so fast. Usually this takes years but in dubai it's announced and the next day is already getting built. This means the best projects can go ahead without being ruined by the developer being forced to take off the top 20 floors or this kind of thing. However, it also means that the really terrible ones aren't ironed out, examples such as falcon city and that big ben tower on sheikh zayed road come to mind.

BD said...

Yes, the Big Ben tower does come to mind. But a few lemons are worth all the cherries! I joined the forum in June 2005. It's one of my best sources of info on the towers. I like that I can even go back and trace the whole history of a tower as forumers "conversed" about it through the many months it took to complete. It is definitely the place for fans of Dubai and its towers.

I imagine New York City was once like Dubai--a place where visions got translated into steel, concrete and glass. But just look at the Freedom Tower. One wonders if it will ever get built.