Friday, March 13, 2009

Unfair and Square

I always believed no place could be considered to be Tabula Rasa in the present context, not even the desert, till I started working where I work. Somehow there are certain contexts where not only the geography but also social life is a desert devoid of public life, filled with suppression and a dictatorial administration asserting all forms of social injustice. In such a scenario it is not very surprising when numerous design offices come up with a square plan as a symbol of refuting the existing context, like a square floating raft (like Thomas Moore's Utopia) where the designer can build his own imagined worlds, where women have equal rights, spaces have active democratic public life and people earn and live with dignity. The square raft has public spaces, green spines, market squares, towers, villas, institutions of democracy and even artefacts and symbols of culture and history...roads and infrastructure spin out of this raft and anchor it within this sea of sand and oil that it desperately refuses to acknowledge.Below are some of the square master plans being developed in the middle east:

(image source Dezeen, which has renderings at street level)
in addition to this below are some video links advertising the city like one would advertise a new gadget like a mobile phone:
a) Masdar initiative
b) Design promotion by Foster
c) City aerial fly through
d) City zones
e) Masdar headquarters and built form branding

1) The plan of MASDAR (UAE, 2007), by Foster + Partners epitomizing creation of sustainable utopia with carbon neutral and zero waste community for UAE. All these good intentions surrounded by a property market already advertising this city as a brand to be sold and speculated in the name of sustainability!

(image source from Archidose who also gives a glimpse into the petty fight between 2 starchitects over originality of idea)

(images sourced from Dezeen, the site also provides ideas of concept, landuse and project teams)
2) OMA's plan for CITY IN THE DESERT, (UAE, 2006) Ras Al-Khaimah, in the northern part of the UAE. coincidently OMA provides a brief that represents the city building activity as a design enquiry and not an urge to do social or environmental good.

(images sourced from Dezeen which also provides details of areas, floor space, projected populations and other interesting statistics, in addition to the rendered views of the project)
3) This is another plan developed by OMA called the WATERFRONT CITY (Dubai,2008), that floats within the lagoon formed by the crazy embroidery of egos that surround it.

(image courtesy B&M architects)
4) This plan is done by B&M architects for Jeddah harbour area master plan .Their website has very little description of design development or brief but it being designed in the year 1996, clearly makes it a predecessor to most other square plans being developed in the middle eastern context or should I say acontext.

Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.

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