Archive for the ‘Cities’ Category

Curious Arab structures in Doha

Monday, March 5th, 2012

I’m not sure what these three things are, but they sure look authentic. My first impression was they were what the offspring of a cactus and wind tower would look like. They really cool forms and quite iconic.

The lighting both at the towers’ bases and at sunset was gorgeous and dramatic.

These huge icons are at Katarra, a project in Doha that has various cultural events.

I finally found Dubai’s cultural center

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

My colleague David Park joined me in Dubai last week. As David and I walked around the spice souk we smelled the spices and loved some of their textural qualities. As we left to catch the boat across the creek, we found a wonderful area called the Baskakija, near the Dubai Museum.

The Baskakija is filled with traditional buildings with narrow lanes of galleries and restauarants and a great trendy hotel that is filled with wonderful unexpected art that one could see in Santa Fe or Taos. The shadows are deep and the door textures have wonderful details. The hotel has a great lobby and two great courtyards. One presents the huge doll figures you’ll see in the pictures below. The tonal qualities of the openings are toned subtlety, almost like a charcoal or pencil drawing. The sculptures are very well done, but also eerie generally. It’s an interesting environment.

Sir Norman Foster’s Sheikh Zayed Museum

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The Sheikh Zayed Museum which is–being designed by Sir Norman Foster–will be quite an icon. I’m not yet sure how the spaces will be used, but it will a sight to behold, which is what a lot of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is about.

The view from a distance is unique and powerful, but I wonder how the subterranean spaces will interact wth the blossoms above grade. The museum and this exhibit represent a great program to honor the father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed.

Tadao Ando’s zen-like Maritime Museum

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Tadao Ando is well known for his poetic minimalist spaces. This project on Sadayat Island, Abu Dhabi is a beautifully rendered form that reminds me of the dow boats in Dubai. Speaking of boats, the boat passing through the center of the model is amazingly poetic.

This is an amazingly unique and creative building. The museum’s spaces look like they could be wonderful. I love how Ando reinvents himself with his simple vocabulary, in this case, using the inspiration of boat sails to express the curve of the building. A couple models are made of wood and they are, themselves pieces of art.

For a Westerner in Abu Dhabi, there is barely anything to do but shopping, so I would love to be exposed more Emirate cultural depth. The Emiratis’ pearl harvesting, trade, dow boats and more continue to inspire me.

The museums of Sadayat Island

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Last week, I visited the Emirates Place Hotel in Abu Dhabi and saw an exhibit on the Sadayat Island museums. Sadayat Island has been developed on-and-off over the past few years, and may now be stalled a bit once again. The plan is to bring some of the greatest art and architecture to Abu Dhabi.

The building designs are wonderfully imaginative, including the zen-inspired Maritime Museum by Tadao Ando (about which I’ll post details tomorrow), the beautifully arabic Jean Nouvel dome with its wonderful shade and filtered light, and of course Zaha Hadid’s otherworldly, soft, and sensual performing arts venues. I am concerned that the local construction wooers will not be able to render Hadid well here, having seen the construction disaster that is her opera hall in Guangzhou, China.

A separate room features Sir Norman Foster design for the Zayed Museum, which is an amazing centerpiece. I’ll profile that on Wednesday.

The overall exhibit talks about Abu Dhabi and the importance of bringing culture to the Emirates. The legacy of Sheikh Zayed will certainly be solidified through these great projects if they move forward. The only one that troubles me is Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim–it looks like a typical bunch of toys left unkept. Some compare it with the Bilbao project, which is somewhat more controlled. This one will not have much usable space as it’s just a bunch of forms tossed about.

More images of Dubai Mall lights

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Dubai Mall also features another Danny Barnycz LED lighting design. This piece is actually a nice filler in an otherwise boring center court. It’s really big.

Dubai’s monstrous penguins

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

No, Dubai doesn’t really have giant penguins–although with all the other exotic attractions there, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking so.

Driving from the Dubai Mall the other day, I happened to see  two penguin-shaped buildings. I thought I ad seen it all but two penguins in the middle of the desert–now that’s a new one. There they are, in the Dubai skyline, marching right along Sheik Zayed Road.

If one penguin is good, why, two are better.

You may also notice the Big Ben-like tower right by the penguins. (I’ve added a shot of it below.) This goes to show the respect that Dubai holds for the British: the Brits discovered the Emiratis’ oil reserves, so they let them create crazy buildings. It’s fortunate that the craziest have remained on drawing paper never to see the light of day given the economic meltdown here.

An LED take on the chandelier

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

One of the courts at Dubai Mall has anamazing chandelier that was designed by my friend Danny Barnycz in Baltimore. You may be familiar with his work on the spitting fountains in Chicago’s Millenium Park.

This piece is not just the chandelier but also the ground plane with a riser that brings cars and other things from the lower level. The floor has LED so the show can be on the ground as well as above. The pieces of the chandelier move independently as well as together as three sections.

This is a very well crafted piece.

The magnificent Burj Khalifa

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Being at the base of the Burj Kahlifa at night is like being in a city in the future. In fact, it’s modern-day Dubai, UAE. Standing beneath it, one does not see the emptyness of the barren desert nor the half-finished towers surrounding the burj, only its immediate surroundings. The landscape designed by swa group is magnificent, and the water show and sound presentation were amazing. The quality of the overall build is an amazing accomplishment for Dubai.

There were thousands of people there last night and also this morning–it does not seem to lack visitors and shoppers. The area in which the burj sits is a world class destination called Downtown Dubai. The area is more like Disney’s Epcot Center then a real downtown–everything in Dubai is a fantasy.

Emaar Properties have done a magnificent job in the design and the end product. The landscape is magnificent, and the tower details are great as are the two side buildings with the sharp angles. The color is very modern and the glass well detailed.

Congratulations to Emaar and to Adrian Smith while he was head of design at SOM Chicago for creating this architectural vision of the future.

Looking toward Hong Kong

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

We arrived late at night in Shenzhen’s Yantian area, which is along the beach facing Kowloon (Hong Kong’s “new territories”). This is where our client has its headquarters (Vanke Center).

Looking out from our hotel in this resort area were several huge colorful dancing figures placed on the beach with Hong Kong in the background. These were very well designed, giving a festive character to the beach. They were quite wonderful in terms of color and graceful positions.

This area of town had other sculptures interspersed in the entertainment district, but none were as good as these. The city is making an effort to create a true resort feeling in this otherwise benign urban area.

The tower is a major visual focus, and the new year ribbons at the base were great. Mac and I stopped to make write some wishes on them for our friends, family, and business. However, as we traveled upward, the messy condition were visible. The elevator floor was falling apart and rust was everywhere. At the terminus was the typical vendor drawing people’s pictures. Of course, he wanted to do mine since I was so “special.” There were some funny signs, and also a tacky shop selling all kinds of merchandise and blocking the vista. Overlooking that, it was a great experience.