It’s been almost 6 months since we received our degree as Architects. There’s been some time for us to reflect on our years in Denmark while we face the demands of our current assignment and job. We are currently living in Dubai, UAE. We are working with a façade engineering company and a curtain wall manufacturer in the construction and design of some of the towers for the King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The masterplan for this project was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects. Among HLA’s projects the Copenhagen Opera House has a special relation to us as it was our daily companion while studying in Copenhagen. Our studios faced the back of this iconic building that has controversially become a reference point on the beautiful Copenhagen canal and an axis to the Marble Church and Amelienborg  Palace complex.

The KAFD project in Riyadh is a highly ambitious project that has included many high profile firms to design buildings for it. For us, it’s a new experience that is enabling us to face and learn at a very technical level with a different perspective on architecture and construction. Living in the Middle East is also exposing us to the rapid growth of Dubai and the other cities in the region which are ambitiously seeking a new form and identity.

Dubai is perhaps the most extreme of all these cities. The undated “Dubai Plan” is as eccentric and determined as the projects built over the past 2 decades. There’s already been revisions to its scope but nonetheless its intention has a significant statement worthwhile looking into. The ambition goes beyond building infrastructure and perhaps its most striking feature is to challenge the sandy dunes with a fluvial system fed by the the Gulf’s  waters.  This would bring into the city a different ecology and potentially even an alternative method of communication and transportation in a car dependant city.

Undated Vision “Map of Dubai”

The Dubai creek has played an important role to the port settlement origins of Dubai. The most significant construction done in the 1960’s was the removal of banks of sand from the creek to enable larger ships to reach the core of Dubai (Bur Dubai and Deira). This had a significant impact in the shipping industry and helped Dubai grow beyond an informal settlement. Since then, the creek has been expanded and has brought a more dynamic ecology into the city. A bird sanctuary occupies part of this expansion near the Industrial Ras al Khor area. It challenges the city at more than a visual level  and has introduce a new set of ecologies which could successfully have an unknown but a hopeful constructive impact.

Dubai Creek – Bur Dubai

Dubai Creek Extension – Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

What lesson could this have on the way we plan cities? There is plenty of criticism, which we hardly disagree, on the way that Dubai has boosted its growth and development. However, there are many issues and opportunities worth the time looking into. Perhaps this slower period of economic slump is the right time to catch up with Dubai and digest the past 20 years of metabolized growth in order to face and confront this contradictory city.

Our minds naturally compare our years in Denmark to our current location, Dubai, (25°15′00″N 55°18′00″E). Copenhagen is a city that in the other hand it’s been celebrated as a modern sustainable city. As we confront these two cities we aim at extracting a set of case studies and observations that could potentially create an stimulating and provocative dialogue at a ample array of levels.

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