EET 02 - 16 - 2010

This most recent leg of the trip has been incredibly diverse and has offered cultural experiences reaching every extreme. One transition that has stood out as being shocking and different was travelling from Dubai to Singapore. Both very young cities, 30 to 50 years since independence, most would presume that development would progress similarly, when that is completely the opposite of what has happened. Both are very advanced cities, with incredible amenities to serve residents and tourists, but the ways in which these cities have advanced are so far from each other. Dubai is awe-inspiring to say the least. The booming city has drawn the glance of the entire world for the sheer volume at which they have been able to develop. The problem is that there seems to be little regard for the environment when these skyscrapers stretch higher and higher into the skies. And the demand was severely overestimated, leaving so many projects at an utter standstill. Sustainability was not really on anyone's mind, expansion and growth were the key terms used. Singapore painted a completely different picture. Nicknamed "The Garden City" and with very good reason, Singapore is a lush, tropical city with extreme focus on nature, the environment, and progressing the city in a sustainable and practical manner. The amazing thing is that these spaces were by no means an afterthought, as they are with many other metropolitans, the outdoor space in Singapore has shaped the development of the city. Singapore is almost like a city in the trees, with a natural and easy feeling about it, where as Dubai would be considered a city with a couple small trees scattered here and there. Comparing the leisure activities and recreation opportunities in these cities is also a tell-tale sign of sustainability considerations. Dubai's sole form of entertainment seems to be shopping, consumerism, and extravagance. There is a gigantic mall on every street corner. And the outrageous thing is the fact that many feature outdoor activities inside of the mall. For example, one mall is so outrageously enormous that it can house an indoor ski mountain and indoor ice skating. Understandably, these activities cannot exist in the hot climate of Dubai, but the energy used to recreate these sports indoors is just another example of the disregard for sustainability. Singapore has a much different perspective. Despite the fact that Singapore is very hot and humid all year round, the desire to spend time outdoors and enjoy the fruits of nature is still there, so these activities and opportunities are not neglected. Parks, gardens, and golf courses seem to be always within sight in Singapore, creating an absolutely beautiful urban landscape. This also makes Singapore a much more walkable city because there are places for pedestrians to congregate and move through the city. Since Dubai does not provide many outdoor gathering spaces, the inclination to walk through the city is low and somewhat discouraged, pushing more and more people to use vehicular transportation. Again, sustainability low on the Dubai list of priorities. Another easy way to see a city's focus is through the city planning efforts. The Singapore Redevelopment Plan continues to emphasize the green space as an integral feature in the city as well as many opportunities to include sustainable practices. Dubai has demonstrated some efforts to provide sustainable living opportunities, however, they are concentrated into a single community located a significant distance from the urban center. Masdar is the name of the sustainable community that is being developed outside of Dubai. Despite the extreme efforts at Masdar to be sustainable, they are completely overshadowed by the irreversible damage that the rest of the urban development is causing. The future outlook for Singapore is quite amazing. The city seems to be getting only more conscious of the environment and making it a serious priority in all future planning efforts. Dubai on the other hand is a toss-up. There is so much development and not enough demand for any of it. The embodied energy that is being used to build this surreal and fantastic city is exactly the opposite of what the planet needs to be doing. It will be interesting to see if Masdar is a success, or if it sits unfinished like much of the rest of Dubai. I would love to see the direction that both of these cities has gone in the next twenty years. I have no doubt that Singapore will be successful, I am crossing my fingers for Dubai. Coming soon

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