Frank Gehry, considered one of the world’s most important architects, said in a recent Foreign Policy interview that its “cheap” skyscrapers makes Dubai look like any other “cruddy city in the world.” We’ve been dissing these skyscrapers for a while, based on their shoddy eco credentials, but it’s so satisfying to hear from one of the world’s most renowned architects that so many of them are just junk.
While one can make the case that sustainable development in the context of a burgeoning global population must occur in dense urban environments, and nothing is more dense than shoving a small city into one soaring skyscraper, Dubai hasn’t attempted to achieve this with any kind of distinctive flair.
That seems to be Gehry’s main complaint.
“One would hope there would be more support from within these places for architecture that responds to the place and culture,” he said in the FP interview.
Instead, we have cookie cutter towers, one after the next looming over the Arabian/Persian Gulf, and many of them largely unoccupied. The economic put a halt to this activity, but a resurgence suggests that new developments are underfoot.
Thankfully, there is some good news to report. Dubai has recently become home to the world’s most sustainable building, The Change Initiative, as well as the world’s largest LEED Platinum government building.
Plus phase two of Sustainable City, a Dubai-styled eco-development, was recently awarded. So it’s not all bad.
But some of it is.
Gehry told FP that he was initially reluctant to get involved with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project, largely because he didn’t know anything about Arab culture.
The Guggenheim, which has been pushed back to a 2017 completion date, is Gehry’s first Arab world project. He said that he doesn’t know of any other museum in the world that has the resources to “show off” art from around the globe in the way it will be showcased on Saadiyat Island upon its eventual completion.
He also addressed issues of worker’s rights, and we were thrilled to know that he hired a lawyer from Human Rights Watch to ensure that those construction Gehry’s work of art do so under the fairest possible conditions.
“These issues are important to me when I take a project,” he said.
For the record, there’s nothing particularly green about most of Gehry’s work, but at least you usually walk away from one of his works knowing exactly where it was built and by whom.
And a strong architectural identity has an uplifting impact on the community in which it appears.
Image of Dubai Skyline, Shutterstock