A quick visit to Dubai’s Cityscape Global Exhibition yesterday made me think that, as ever, it’s only rich rulers and property developers who are ceaselessly optimistic about the future and the building of cities. Rich rulers can’t change countries at will but, as evidenced from the previous evenings’ Cityscape Awards for Emerging Markets, property developers can flit from place to place whenever they please, sprinkling their fairydust.
Here’s Falcon City as it’s imagined now – I confess that I never really understood until yesterday that the city is shaped like a falcon. And why not? Stranger things have been known to happen.
The original idea was to reconstruct all the wonders of the world in one place – hence the original name of Falconcity of Wonders. (“The world in a city!”) Here’s a colourful model from the past.
Pyramids may come and go, but the Not-The-Eiffel-Tower has staying power – along with the Taj Mahal, apparently.
Good luck with the replica Great Wall of China guys! (Thanks TheNational.) Meanwhile, over in Abu Dhabi, you can tell why Saadiyat translates as Happiness Island, what with its guaranteed investment returns and its flexible payment terms.
It’s been that long since I thought about it, that I forgot the name of the Gehry building or what it’s meant to be. Whatever it is, it looks like it’s going to be a large collection of bits, each of which is actually very large.
Meanwhile, around the corner.
Back in Dubai now, at another beach.
In the above photograph, imagine that each of the people represent a cluster of 40-story buildings. Since The Beach is currently being built on the beach parking lots, this development must be targeting the people living in those buildings. Meanwhile …
And yes, that’s true – have a google. IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art is that bright spot at the bottom of the image, near what turns out to be a circular promenade. That’s Doha itself on the bit at 9 o’clock protruding into what’s fast becoming a lagoon.
All in all, I MISS THE FUTURE! Not so much the glossy renders of five or six years ago, but something more profound.
I didn’t really expect to find it at Cityscape Global, but I feel like I’ve already lived in these cities of the future. I miss a sense that the future will somehow be a better place to be – or even a different place to be. The future isn’t what it used to be. Here’s some of my favourite visions of the future (and here‘s some more).
This second video is about 35 mins. long, beginning with pre-construction and including some tree planting, blessing of the ground etc. We see Expo ’70 taking shape. It is, as they say, a slow edit unsuited to contemporary tastes for short cuts and fast action. It’s probably impossible to appreciate a video like this now. We’ve become conditioned to expect more instant gratification. A bit like cities and how it became impossible for us to imagine a future that isn’t the creature of speculative property development. It’s pointless even wishing it otherwise since the future is an abstraction anyway. Imagining it was somehow better in the past is just two more layers of abstraction on top of that. Like the primitive hut, an optimistic future is something we only want because we we could not help but lose it anyway.
Conclusion: Get over it. Get on with it.