Friday, March 07, 2008

Delirious Dubious Dubai

Lebbeus Woods on Koolhaas in Dubai

One thing for sure, Rem Koolhaas doesn’t hedge his bets. He also knows how to stick his neck out and not lose his head. He has perfected the old debating trick of disarming his critics in advance. Philip Johnson was also a master at this. Before anyone could criticize the pandering commercialism of his office tower designs, he would say, “I’m a whore.” Rem Koolhaas gives this tactic a European sophistication, a rhetorically polished upgrade. He says that he is trying to “find optimism in the inevitable.” The “inevitable” sounds like fate, something beyond human control, and has an ominous ring to it. Death, of course, is the ultimate inevitable, and who could criticize someone who is defiantly optimistic in the face of that? It’s a heroic position, no doubt, if, that is, the inevitable is as certain as it is made to seem.

Dubai is certainly the inevitable place for the realization of Koolhaas’ ideas. It is by now the capital of an economic and political New World Order. A city-state without income taxes, labor laws, or elections, it is ruled by a corporate oligarchy of hereditary rulers, accountable only to themselves and their investors. Quite a model for the global future. Built up rapidly over the past few years on the wealth gotten from the world’s greed for oil—and more recently as an unregulated sanctuary for cash—it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate neo-liberal Utopia.

2 comments:

dr said...

"...it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate neo-liberal Utopia."

I'm not so certain Dubai's 250,000 foreign laborers would agree. They live in conditions described by Human Rights Watch as being "less than human."

Michael Doyle said...

You're absolutely right. I think Leb was alluding to "it has no moral foundation either."