PRINT April 2008


OMA/Rem Koolhaas, Waterfront City, 2007–, Dubai. Rendering.

FOR THE WESTERN CRITIC, delirious Dubai makes the easiest of targets. What was only two decades ago a languorous trading post known mostly for pirates, pearl fishing, and gold smuggling has swiftly fashioned itself into the commercial and recreational hub of the Persian Gulf region—a haven of tax-free zones and corporate enclaves, home to seven-star hotels, indoor ski slopes, and megalith malls. The dizzying scale and speed of Dubai’s growth have led many to write it off as little more than a surrealist pastiche, a theme park, all fake, all the time. Architect Rem Koolhaas has dubbed this vein of criticism the “Disney fatwa.” Koolhaas—who happens to be designing a dense 1.5 billion–square-foot Waterfront City in Dubai—insists that such pat dismissals conceal the anxieties and insecurities of the critics themselves: After all, the metastasizing skyscraping landscape

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