GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Hyper-contextual megastructures: a vision into new architectural identities for the UAE
Paper Proposal Text :
Megastructures are all large buildings; but not all large buildings are megastructures.
Reyner Banham (1976)

It may be a mere coincidence that the first steps leading to the formation of the UAE were taken as the Megastructure movement was becoming predominant in the global architectural discourse of the 1960s. The ability of the Megastructure movement to fuse architecture and urbanism in proposals that reconciled pragmatism and utopia was a moment of extraordinary lucidity, vitality and authenticity in the architecture of the 20th century and offered valuable insights into the identity of the city of the 21st century. This paper is a visual discourse of architectural identities for the UAE resulting from a revision of the concept of the Megastructure that was at the forefront of architectural thinking when the country was in formation. The collection of digital collages (images) that define these architectural visions is the author’s own response to both the present and the future of the Emirati city and, by extension, to the urban future of other cities in the region. At the forefront of this work, there is an appreciation for some of the signs of identity of the contemporary, anonymous architecture of cities such as Sharjah or Ajman, smaller and less cosmopolitan than neighboring Dubai or Abu Dhabi but, also, less influenced by imported architectural identities. This speculative new architectural breed, the hyper-contextual megastructure, results from the recombination of existing identities rather than the adoption of ever updated formal and visual foreign languages that characterizes much of the recent architecture in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other major cities in the Gulf region. As a purely theoretical exercise, this visual discourse has the ambition to underline some of the fast-evolving social and cultural processes at play in the country today, such as the diversity and heterogeneity of the Emirati society or the cultural adjacencies that find their strongest expression in the balance between imported culture and local tradition in the UAE. Hyper-contextual megastructures respond to the fact that the identity of Emirati cities is forged in the coexistence of opposites -old and new; local and imported; planned and ad-hoc; small-scale and large-scale; Western and Eastern; traditional and modern, etc. and that these dichotomies, superimposed over a number of rather chaotic, rather fast-growing environments and communities of extraordinary urban vitality, have the ability to define the elusive architectural identity of the new Emirati city.