A friend of mine alerted me to an interesting article in the New York Times on the trouble in Dubai. Dubai, one of Mike Davis’ Neoliberal Evil Paradises, has been enjoying an economic boom over the last several years. A corollary to Dubai’s financial power has been an unprecedented building boom. Dubai wasn’t building just any old skyscrapers. It was building the world’s tallest skyscraper, revolving skyscrapers, whole archipelagos of luxury islands, and many other wonders of contemporary starchitecture.
The building boom was so extensive, that an estimated 25-50% of the world’s construction cranes were located in Dubai. The crane boom was matched by the proliferation of architectural forms. World’s most prominent architects lined up at the Emirate’s door offering science-fictional visions of mutant architecture.
I’ve always thought that Dubai resembled the 1922 Chicago Tribune design competition for its headquarters. Hundreds of architects and laypeople submitted sometimes outlandish proposals for “the most beautiful and eye-catching building in the world.” Raymond Hood & John Mead Howells won that competition. In Dubai, every starchitect is a winner. Almost every month some marketing materials announced a new iconic project. Every design must be built!
Now, the Dubai economic bubble seems to be popping. Streets once full of luxury vehicles are empty. Thousands of cars sit abandoned in the Dubai airport left by foreign workers fleeing the country to avoid debtor’s prison. Unemployment is rampant. Dubai’s economic power now resembles a desert mirage. That huge number of cranes (which appears to have been a little… inflated) is sure to shrink as the building boom is grinding to a halt due to plummeting real estate values. Things are not looking good. The NYT article had a tantalizing passage:
Lurid rumors spread quickly: the Palm Jumeira, an artificial island that is one of this city’s trademark developments, is said to be sinking, and when you turn the faucets in the hotels built atop it, only cockroaches come out.
A couple of months ago I wrote about an imaginary Ballardian ‘Drowned World’ theme park… in Dubai. It seems they’re getting a little closer to accomplishing the task.
On a different track, check out Jeet Heer’s recent post on the role ‘free and rich’ Dubai played in neoliberal capitalist imagination. The comments section has an interesting discussion which vaguely reminds me of a recent comment on this blog.
A new theme park is coming soon to Dubai. Named The Ultimate City, its theme will be the the world refracted through the many faceted crystal-like mind of writer J.G. Ballard. It will be distributed throughout the city to make it’s experience as much part of the urban fabric as possible. Some of the attractions will include:
• The Drowned World water park where guests can experience the rising sea levels of global warming as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.
• As oil rapidly becomes a scarce commodity, Crashland will become the only place to partake in the visceral and intoxicating power of the internal-combustion engine.
• Get closer to the nuclear power of the sun over the ozone free Terminal Beach, or descend into the cool shade of vintage Bikini Atoll concrete nuclear blast bunkers scattered among it’s sandy dunes.
• In a special arrangement with the Burj Dubai, a large section of the world’s tallest skyscraper has been reserved for High Rise: a paint-ball arena where guests struggle for advantage as they try to reach the top of the building.
• Other attractions will include: The Burning World, Concrete Island, and more.
Well… not quite. This is a swimming pool designed by the Mumbai branch Ogilvy & Mather for HSBC Banking group. It is supposed to raise public awareness of the dangers of global warming, but instead they’ve succeeded in creating world’s first (?) Ballardian swimming pool. With all the apocalyptic talk on this blog lately, I couldn’t resist!
Since I wrote the Enigmatic Engineering post ‘Yuichi Yokoyama’ has consistently become one of the top 5 search strings (after communist, Wolverine, Karl Marx and zombies) that have brought readers to this blog. There have been a few responses to it across the internetosphere that I wanted to mention.
First, no less an authority than Tim Hodler at Comics Comics gave a nice shout-out to the article not once but twice. I look forward to the Comics Comics dissection of Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid a comic that influenced me a lot when it came out. Although I voted for Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which has gotten near unanimous high praise since it came out. It would have been interesting to see a more critical take on the book (which I liked very much). On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a proper critical assessment of Heavy Liquid, so maybe it deserves the spotlight.
A couple of Noguchi Park to Yokoyma comparisons. Click to enlarge.
Tim Thornton e-mailed me a link to a PingMag post about Isamu Noguchi’s Moerenuma Park in Sapporo, Hokkaido. The park has many wonderful ‘Yokoyama’ touches, including an artificial mountain! Some of the other attractions are reminiscent of scenes from Yokoyama’s newest book The Garden. (Thanks for getting me a copy Mike!)
The amazing image on the inside of the dust jacket. Click to enlarge.
Both Tim and Jose Luis Olivares alerted me to the Yokoyama exhibition at Rappongi Crossing. I wish I had been able to see it. Fortunately Dan Nadel, a Comics Comics co-editor and Picturebox publisher, posted a few pictures of it. I hope that Picturebox will publish an english version of The Garden sometime in the near future. Since I don’t read Japanese I’m very anxious to see another meticulous translation of all the sound effects. There’s also a lot more dialogue in this book compared to New Engineering. Although, according to Luis, the dialogue is mostly descriptive of the various unusual sights the characters encounter.
Last, but not least, Simon Sellars has been kind enough to include Enigmatic Engineering among all things Ballardian. His site is the place online to watch the extensive influence of J.G. Ballard unfold… in (almost) real-time!
I’m still laboring on Part 2 of Enigmatic Engineering… but I have a good excuse. I was Momed.
I’ve got another short comics story coming out soon in the new issue of Backwards City Review. They just announced the contents of the issue. Here’s a preview of page 1. It’s an 8-page story with lots of cars. Cars on every page. Perhaps I’ve been reading a little too much J. G. Ballard lately. It’s supposed to be out in about 3 weeks.