“Dubai’s Skyscrapers are Cheap” and “Anonymous” says Architect Franky Gehry

Dubai architecture, Dubai skyscrapers, Frank Gehry, cheap building, Guggenheim, urban design

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. 

:: Arabian Business, Foreign Policy

Image of Dubai Skyline, Shutterstock

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5 thoughts on ““Dubai’s Skyscrapers are Cheap” and “Anonymous” says Architect Franky Gehry”

  1. Ben says:

    “One would hope there would be more support from within these places for architecture that responds to the place and culture” — had Frank Gehry ever lived in Dubai he would have realized the cookie-cutter skyscrapers respond perfectly to an abject lack of original culture: rather, everything feels appropriated in Dubai’s chiefly ex-pat community; and often poorly so, and the skyscrapers mirror the fact.

  2. LGG says:

    Gehry s+ucks, he’s a thief and a fraud. The ‘original’ ideas he has come from students, his is just a well organized business with a copy machine duping Pritzker, Barcelona and the rest of the ‘elite’. Has anyone really listened to what he says, I mean really listening? It’s just drivel and double talking nonsense.

  3. Tamar says:

    Nice to know the client has chosen a Jewish architect. Important to remember when we toss around generalities and slogans.

  4. Thom Bohlen says:

    Gehry’s crass criticism of Dubai as being like any other “cruddy city in the world” is a simplistic one – indeed all the major cities of the current world, from New York to Hong Kong and across the globe, have both cheaply built skyscrapers and expensive ones, in a typical mix of the good, bad and ugly. In his off-handed comments, Gehry failed to mention some of the most photographed (and admired) buildings in the world, including the Burj Al Arab and Burj Kalifa, both of which have “responded to place and culture”. There are many other examples across the skyline of Dubai.

    Yes, Dubai and the rest of the U.A.E. could be developed more sustainably, which was not one of Gehry’s concerns. But both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both well on their way to having government required green building development within their emirates, under Dubai Municipality Green Regulations and the Estidama Pearl Regulations respectively.

    Based on his brash comments, Gehry still has a lot to learn about the Arab Culture.

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