Urban Spectacles: Constructing the World's Tallest Building in Dubai

Dr. Yasser Elsheshtawy
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This paper examines the construction of Burj Dubai or The Tower of Dubai, planned to be the tallest building on earth. The tower is viewed as a symbol of a new Dubai, marking its emergence as a global center. This project is symptomatic of a new form of urbanity and the emergence of a new city – challenging conventional notions of urbanism and planning – where the urban spectacle becomes a primary way to indicate an arrival at the world stage. This new urbanity raises a series of issues primarily related to appropriateness, relevance, resistance and most significantly sustainability. A way of life is propagated – through these projects – emphasizing consumerism and commodification of cultural values, which stands in contrast with the main principles of sustainable development. Sustainability is used here to include in addition to ecological and environmental concerns, economic, and socio-cultural strands. These strands are interlinked and affect one another. Of particular significance is socio-cultural sustainability. Dealing with social cohesion, the preservation of local cultures, multi-culturalism and social justice it is of direct relevance for providing an understanding, and thus a critique, of developments taking place in Dubai. To that end the paper will explore the tall buildings discourse and the extent to which it responds to the notion of the ‘urban spectacle.’ The paper argues that rather than viewing development and socio-cultural cohesion as being mutually exclusive they are part of a cohesive system which eventually is in the service of human beings in their strive to live within a harmonious environment, where its resources are used efficiently and to the benefit of all – and not just a select few.

Keywords: Social Sustainability, Cultural Sustainability, Skyscrapers, Dubai, Middle Eastern Cities
Stream: Cultural Sustainability, Social Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Urban Spectacles

Dr. Yasser Elsheshtawy

Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, United Arab Emirates University
United Arab Emirates

Yasser Elsheshtawy obtained a Bachelor of Architecture from Cairo University in 1986, a Master Degree in Architecture from Pennsylvania State University in 1991 and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1996. His research has focused on environment-behavior studies, architectural theory as well as changing urban/architectural patterns of Middle Eastern cities. He has published in numerous international journals and attended conferences worldwide. He was recently awarded the JAE (Journal of Architectural Education) award for best article of the year for an article titled “The Ambiguous Veil: On Transparency the Masharabiy’ya and Architecture”. His most recent publication is an edited book on Middle Eastern cities published by Routledge titled “Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope in a Globalizing World.” He has lectured at Harvard Design School, Tianjin University, China, and is currently Associate Professor of Architecture at the United Arab Emirates University.

Ref: S06P0286