Dubai: More cities than one - but don't celebrate
JMM 02 - 13 - 2010

We are searching for good examples, ones that inspire us to better our designs and further the development of the design world for a sustainable future. Some lessons, however, are learned through bad examples. Though modern architecture has the tendency to press all of my 'feel good' buttons, the young and modern city of Dubai has failed to excite me. Despite a few nuggets of delight briefly strewn about the city, I think that Dubai has not only failed, but failed miserably at taking advantage of a magnificent situation; tons of money, a clean slate, and plenty of momentum. One of the worst things about Dubai is: Where is downtown? It is hard to tell because there appear to be multiple clusters of what could be 'downtown' all over 'downtown' Dubai. Any number of these clusters could be the city center, but they are all so disconnected that they all become city centers separated from each other. The logistics of the city disconnect and separate sectors almost as much as the lack of communication architecturally. It is almost as if there is a city of triangles next to a city of squares, which is next to a city of circles. Greenspace and parks are seriously lacking and the streets are horrible for pedestrians, while the automobile dominates the beautiful, large avenues that speed through the 'downtowns'. Dubai had the opportunity to plan an entire city, and the money to make it the world’s most sustainable urban center, but instead they created a city of high-end, wasteful, individual sectors, that can be accessed almost exclusively by car. There could have been a cohesive whole with a coherent center, pedestrian-priority planning, all-encompassing mass transit, and resource conscious design, among thousands of other sustainable tidbits incorporated thoughtfully every place the people WALKED. Singapore, on the other hand, should invite the planners of Dubai to show them what their city could have looked like. Natural shade, parks, gardens, connections, pedestrian promotion, efficient mass transit, and a cohesive center. Well done, Singapore.

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