Friday, March 20, 2009
This off-the-shelf city state, built on laundering the profits of oil, drugs, arms and western aid, stands on the brink
The Guardian, Friday 20 March 2009
"....When prices go up, buildings go up. When prices come down, buildings tend to stay up. Until recently visitors to Dubai returned gasping. This was truly a city designed from start to finish by autocrats and architects. It was the last word in iconic overkill, a festival of egotism with humanity denied. It was an architectural chorus line of towers, each shouting louder and kicking higher. People were ants.....
Just as visitors to the Middle East see half-built, mostly abandoned concrete housing blocks and barracks littering the landscape of Syria and Jordan, so the towers of Dubai will become casualties not of human greed but of architectural folly. Their lifts and services, expensive to maintain, will collapse. Their colossal facades will shed glass. Sand will drift round their trunkless legs. Animals will inhabit their basements.
Thousands of residential properties, if occupied at all, will be squatted by a migratory poor, like the hotel towers of the Spanish littoral or Corbusier's blockhouses of Chandigarh in India. Refugees will colonise the camps where Indian workers have lived as they built Dubai. Gangs will seize the gated estates and random anarchy will rule the soulless boulevards.
If it is lucky Dubai will at least be a refuge from the political cataclysms that could engulf countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. But mostly the dunes will reclaim the place. In centuries to come, tourists will share with Ozymandias the message: "Look on my works ye mighty and despair." With Shelley they will see how, "round the decay /Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare /The lone and level sands stretch far away.""