January 22, 2010
Out of the many acres of newsprint generated by the ‘Dubai Debt Crisis’, this is by far the best article of them all. The wonderful thing about it is that it simultaneously satirises both the Dubai real estate lunacy and the overwrought hyperbole of the overseas press reports.
December 20, 2009
There’s an article in the Guardian’s travel section today about Dubai that focuses on the ’boutique’ hotel market that seems to be developing here, albeit on a small scale. I was very pleased to see that two of the guesthouses mentioned are located in Bastakiya: when I was last wandering through that part of town I passed one of these hotels and remember thinking that this small guesthouse possessed infinitely more charm and character than Nakheel’s entire oeuvre.
I’ve long felt that Dubai has not made enough use of its architectural heritage. Unfortunately, very little of ’Old Dubai’ still exists and that which does has had to be radically ’restored’ due to the nature of the traditional building materials (coral and mud) and the climate. In the (understandable) rush to modernise, the restoration of the crumbling traditional architecture was not a high priority. This meant that only a fraction of the original buildings survived.
A few developments have tried to draw inspiration from Bastakiya: Madinat Jumeirah and Old Town are probably the most notable. As nice as these are, they are ultimately conventional structures and developments dressed up with some indigenous stylistic flourishes. Don’t get me wrong, they are infinitely better than the generic Nakheel/Damac dross, but they lack the slightly higgledy-piggledy charm of Bastakiya with its narrow streets, maze-like layout and shaded courtyards. It’s just a shame that there is so little left of it.
A large section of Deira was apparently due for redevelopment as part of the Palm Deira lunacy development. Given the supreme unlikelihood of this project ever happening, perhaps the planners might like to take a pleasant wander through Bastakiya before they come up with their next scheme, if only to remind them that authenticity is far more cost-effective than artificial islands.
(If you are looking for photos of ‘Old Dubai’, this site is well worth a visit.)
December 20, 2009
A new idea from the RTA:
Dubai is planning to build air-conditioned walkways to link major buildings and encourage more people to walk around the city.
The walkways, called pedways, will link major buildings, shopping centres, metro stations and bus stops(.)
Unfortunately, no matter how ’pedestrian-friendly’ you make the streets of Dubai, the extreme summer temperatures mean that we are not all going to abandon our cars. In some areas though, air-conditioned walkways could be a viable option. I only wish they’d implemented it a decade ago. If a system like Calgary’s plus-15s had been integrated into the planning process early enough, then high-density areas such as Sheikh Zayed Road could have been built with this in mind and connected relatively easily. Alternatively, master developers could have been told that the large-scale high-density residential or commercial projects had to be designed with underground or air-conditioned pedestrian routes linked to designated public transport hubs. I know it is easy to be wise after the fact, but I’m sure that such regulations exist in other countries and could have been ‘borrowed’ by Dubai when the boom started. In addition, the summer heat is not something new and really ought to have been a major consideration in urban planning from the beginning.
November 25, 2009
A few things have changed since this photo was taken of the Sheikh Zayed Road in late 1980s/early 1990s.
A smidgen of development has taken place:
However, at least one thing remains stubbornly unchanged. Just across the road from the Burj Dubai and ‘the most prestigious square mile on earth’, the “Toyota Building” still stands defiantly, like a crotchety and deteriorating old relative who refuses to go quietly.
According to Peyman Younes Parham, director of marketing and corporate communications at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai, the building will not be immediately affected by the infrastructure
“It’s not in our plan to remove this building,” he said. “Every building has its lifespan, but this one is privately owned and it will be demolished at the owner’s discretion.”
Veeru Taman, who works in the real estate division of Nasser Rashid Lootah Group, said there were no immediate plans to demolish the building.
It is testimony to the sheer insanity of the real estate boom in Dubai that amidst all the frenzy; the mushrooming land prices; the man-made islands; and the plans to pave over half the desert, no-one got round to redeveloping an eye-sore located on the city’s main motorway and in the middle of one of the main business districts. Somehow it remains untouchable, with the new interchange being painstakingly built around this obstinate lump of concrete.
I am intrigued as to why this building has remained sacrosanct when so many other buildings and areas have been deemed expendable (Chicago Beach Village, Dubai Country Club etc.). Answers on a postcard please…