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

Presentations by:

Modjtaba Sadria

Professor, AKU-ISMC

 Hashim Sarkis
Architect; Professor, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University
Brett Steele

Director, Architectural Association School of Architecture

Farshid Moussavi
Architect; Professor, Graduate School of Design at Harvard University; Member of the Steering Committee of the AKAA
Nasser Rabbat

Professor, MIT

 Farrokh Derakhshani

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.

 4 - 5 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA

Tel: +44 20 7907 1020


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