Professor Sadria is coordinating a research on Cities and Muslim Urbanities at the Institute. As part of this initiative, he is organizing a roundtable workshop on Friday 12 June 2009 entitled “Reconsidering Dubai: New perspectives for cities in the Middle East?”.
Brief outline: In many architectural and urban planning circles, Dubai has been a major reference point for the last 30 years. Dubai emerged in both reality and the imagination as the future of architecture and city building in the world and particularly, in many Muslim societies. But the dream has turned. Is it now time to proclaim “Dubai is dead”? This afternoon roundtable discussion, with leading architects and scholars, will reconsider how the current situation in Dubai could help to broaden debates about architecture and urban planning for other Middle Eastern cities. Discussion will focus on the sustainable use of resources, what went wrong with the social and cultural vision of Dubai in relation to the built environment, the important role and responsibility of architects and planners, and new ways of thinking about cities in Muslim societies.
It will be held from 14.00 - 17.00 at the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, 4-5 Bedford Square, WC1B 3RA.
Speakers: Hashim Sarkis (Harvard), Nasser Rabbat (MIT), Brett Steele (AA School of Architecture), Farrokh Derakhshani (AKAA) and Farshid Moussavi (FOA) and Modjtaba Sadria (AKU-ISMC).
Reconsidering Dubai: New Perspectives for Cities in the Middle East?
Friday 12 June 2009, 2 – 5pm
AKU-ISMC Lecture Room 1
Architect; Professor, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University
Director, Architectural Association School of Architecture
Architect; Professor, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University; Member of the Steering Committee of the AKAA
Director, Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)
In 2006, a major international conference was held in Kuwait City, the proceedings of which have been published in a book edited by Mohammad Al-Asad and Majd Musa entitled Architectural Criticism: Global Prospectus. In this conference and around it, there was an invisible shadow; the shadow of Dubai. Over the last 30 years, Dubai had been a constant reference point in many architectural, urbanist and city planning circles. Project Dubai attracted the signatures of architects from across the planet. Investment in real estate in Dubai had the highest imaginable return and the future of Dubai seemed to be one of endless prosperity. Dubai emerged in both reality and the imagination as the role model and future of architecture and city building in the world and particularly, in many Muslim societies. Having benefited from two major political events – the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and the return of Hong Kong China in 1984 –Dubai became the case study for the “global city”, “hub city” and “future city”. Dubai became a myth, a dream, and a major reference for many aspects of the built environment. A very important body of scholarly work came to support this position and pass it onto the students of architecture and urbanism.
But, it seems the dream has turned to nightmare. Although many may have an overwhelming desire to proclaim “Dubai is dead, long live Dubai”, perhaps it is time to reconsider how discussion, questions and analysis about the current situation in Dubai could help to broaden debates about architecture, urbanism and city planning for other Middle Eastern cities. With this purpose in mind, a roundtable workshop is being organised for Friday, 12 June 2009 in London, which will include presentations from Hashim Sarkis (Harvard University Graduate School of Design), Farrokh Derakshani (Director, Aga Khan Award for Architecture), Brett Steele (AA School for Architecture), Nasser Rabbat (MIT), Modjtaba Sadria (AKU-ISMC), and Farshid Moussavi (Foreign Office Architects, London/Harvard University Graduate School of Design).
Several aspects of the Dubai experience are worth thinking about. First, reconsidering the use of resources in a way that accepts their limitations and acknowledges the implications of their misuse on the environment; second, rethinking the responsibility of those involved in architecture and the built environment in creating role models, and the extent to which this includes an ability to critically and self-reflexively analyse their own work; thirdly, critically analysing what was wrong in the way that Dubai was envisaged socially, culturally and in relation to the built environment; and finally, investigating new ground for thinking about the built environment and urban planning in cities in Muslim societies.
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