Steffen Wippel, Katrin Bromber, Christian Steiner, Birgit Krawietz (Ed.)

Under Construction: Logics of Urbanism in the Gulf Region

Ashgate, Farnham/Burlington, 2014, 332 S. (inkl. 16 Farbseiten).


Advancements of urban development in the Arab Gulf States are widely celebrated and broadcast by the international media. Over recent years, the global public has followed this free-wheeling, accelerated hypermodernity with a great deal of bewilderment. The construction of artificial islands, theme parks and prestige sport facilities has attracted considerable attention. However, there is still a shortage of academic literature which aims at looking behind the curtain of such dynamic developments.

This edited volume opens up new perspectives on what is happening in the region beyond matter–of–fact descriptions and popular praise by attempting to understand the internal logic of those developments. Interdisciplinary in approach, it explores and deciphers the symbolic value and iconicity of the built environment in the Arab Gulf Region, its aesthetics, language and performative characteristics. Bringing together a range of studies by artists, curators and scholars, it demonstrates how Dubai appeared – at least until the financial crisis – to be leading the construction race and has already completed a large number of its landmark architecture and strategic facilities. In contrast, cities like the Qatari capital Doha still appear to be heavily ‘under construction’ and in countries like the Sultanate of Oman, ultra-luxury tourism projects were started only recently.

While the construction of artificial islands, theme parks and prestige sport facilities has attracted considerable attention, much less is known about the region’s widespread implementation of innovative infrastructure such as global container ports, free zones, inter-island causeways and metro lines. This volume argues that these endeavours are not simply part of a strategy to prepare for the post-oil era for future economic survival and prosperity in the Lower Gulf region, but that they are also aiming to strengthen identitarian patterns and specific national brands. In doing so, they exhibit similar, yet remarkably diverse modes of engaging with certain global trends and present – questionably – distinct ideas for putting themselves on the global map. Each country aims to grab attention with regard to the worldwide flow of goods and capital and thus provide its own citizens with a socially acceptable trajectory for the future. By doing that, the countries in the Gulf are articulating a new semiotic and paradigm of urban development.

For the first time, this volume maps these trends in their relation to architecture and infrastructure, in particular by treating them as semiotics in their own right. It suggests that recent developments in this region of the world not only represent a showcase of extraordinary initiatives by which these desert states have transformed, but also that the commodification of local ‘traditions’ acts as an essential element in the countries’ effort to design an Arab version of (hyper-)modernity and to position themselves as a regional and global archetype, which has frequently been adopted elsewhere.



Notes on the Contributors   xv

Foreword   xxi

Ulrike Freitag

Acknowledgements   xxiii

1 The Arab(ian) Gulf: Urban Development in the Making   1

Katrin Bromber, Birgit Krawietz, Christian Steiner and Steffen Wippel

Part I The Politics and Economy of Infrastructure and Architecture

2 Iconic Spaces, Symbolic Capital and the Political Economy of Urban Development in the Arab Gulf   17

Christian Steiner

3 The Role of ‘Lavish Construction Schemes’ in ‘Late–Late–Late’ Developing Societies: The Case of the Arab Gulf States   31

Martin Hvidt

4 Masdar City: A Critical Retrospection   45

Boris Brorman Jensen

5 Tourism and Urbanization in Oman: Sustainable and Socially Inclusive?   55

Sonja Nebel

6 Off and Running: Qatar Brands for FIFA World Cup, and Life Beyond   71

Nadine Scharfenort

Part II Images and Iconic Brands: Constructing Markets and Identity

7 Promise and Reality in Dubai’s Architectural Design   91

Felix Sommerlad

8 Port and Tourism Development in Oman: Between Economic Diversification and Global Branding   101

Steffen Wippel

9 The Sporting Way: Sport as Branding Strategy in the Gulf States   119

Katrin Bromber

10 Falconry as a Cultural Icon of the Arab Gulf Region   131

Birgit Krawietz

11 ‘1,001 Places to See Before You Die’: Constructing Oriental Holiday Worlds in European Guide Books – The Example of Dubai   147

Nicolai Scherle and Mikael Jonasson

Part III Art Production and Exhibitions: A Critical Engagement with Urban Developments

12 Dubai: Telegenic Fantasies   161

George Katodrytis

12a Model Toy City   169

George Katodrytis

13 The Cultural Imperative: Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi between Public Policy and Architectural Gesture   171

Brigitte Dumortier

14 The Louvre Abu Dhabi: Utopia as Reality   191

Bruno Maquart

15 A Vision Becomes an Institution: The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar   199

Joachim Gierlichs

16 Universalism in Art and the Art of Universalism: Thoughts on the ‘Globalization’ of the Art System, Taking the United Arab Emirates as Example   211

Original text by Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann; edited, revised and supplemented for publication by Katrin Bromber, Birgit Krawietz, Christian Steiner and Steffen Wippel

16a Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann: Artwork Dubai I and Dubai II   221

Original text by Alice Creischer und Andreas Siekmann; edited, revised and supplemented for publication by Katrin Bromber, Birgit Krawietz, Christian Steiner and Steffen Wippel

17 Stefan Zirwes: How Real is Reality?   227

Katrin Bromber, Birgit Krawietz, Christian Steiner and Steffen Wippel

Part IV Dubai-Style Elsewhere: Plagiarizing or Transforming the Gulf Model

18 Modes of Urban Diffusion: Culture, Politics and the Impact of the Recent Urban Developments in the Arabian Gulf Cities on Cairo’s Vision 2050   233

Khaled Adham

19 Global Waterfronts in the Maghreb: A Mere Replication of Dubai? Case Studies from Morocco and Tunisia   247

Pierre-Arnaud Barthel

20 Dubai on Barada? The Making of ‘Globalized Damascus’ in Times of Urban Crisis   259

Leïla Vignal

21 Seeing Dubai in Khartoum and Nouakchott: ‘Gulfication’ on the Margins of the Arab World   271

Armelle Choplin and Alice Franck

Index   285

Plates Section

1 The Palm Jumeirah vs. the American Suburb

2 Oman Tourism Campaigns

3 Oman – A Seafaring Nation

4 Dubai Toy City – The Urbanism of Aerial Views

George Katodrytis

5 Atlas (Spaces in Subjunctive), Dubai Folio

Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann

6 How Real is Reality in Dubai?

Stefan Zirwes

7 Selection of Proposed Stadiums for FIFA World Cup (Qatar 2022)

8 The Islamic Quarter of ‘Sukuk’, Nouakchott under Construction


Stichworte, keywords, mots-clé:

Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Katar, Doha, United Arab Emirates, UAE, VAE, Vereinigte Arabische Emirate, Bahrain, Bahrein, Sharjah, Muscat, Maskat, Mascate, Salalah, Manama, Africa, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Afrika, Mauretanien, Marokko, Ägypten, Afrique, Mauritanie, Egypte, Soudan, Tunisia, Tunesien, Tunisie, Rabat, Casablanca, Tunis, Nouakchott, Khartoum, Cairo, Syria, Syrien, Damascus, Damas, Architecture, Infrastructure, Architektur, Infrastruktur, Arab Arabian Peninsula, Persian-Arab Gulf; Persian Gulf, Arab Gulf, Arabischer Persischer Golf, Golfe Arabe, Persique, Arabische Halbinsel, trade, culture, Handel, Kultur, commerce, Dhofar, seascape, landscape, animalscape, GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, Indian Ocean, geography, geopolitics, géopolitique, Geopolitik, identity, Identität, identité, India, Iran, migrants, migration, oil, post-oil, Nachölära, place, non-place Qaboos, Qabus, Saudi Arabia, Baudrillard, Soja, Augé, Eco, tourism, tradition, investment, translocal, translocality, Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), aesthetics, aesthetic, aesthetically, anesthetization, aestheticism Al Maktoum Al Manakh artists authoritarianism Burj Al Arab brand branding vision port curator dubaization desert dubaification Emaar falcon Elsheshtawy fascination sports FIFA free zone Guggenheim guide books heritage heterotopia hypermodernity hypermodern Hyperreality hyperreal Ibn Battuta Mall icon iconic building Integrated Tourism Complex ITC ITCs image Kuwait leisure Louvre marketing master plan metropolis Museum of Islamic Art Middle East neoliberal Orient Oriental Orientalism Orientalist Orientalization Palm island SimCity simulation simulacra, simulacrum spectacular sustainability superlative tourismscape urbanism urban model urban planning visions visualization, waterfront, workers

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