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Calatrava Explores: How Does the Future of Dubai Look?


Dyuthi Prakash ME Art Community ,,,

The tension was palpable at the Dubai Design Week 2016 on the evening of the October 25; and this wasn’t just attributed to the shimmering Swarovski sculpture by Zeinab AlHashemi that grasped the spotlight for two days.

The atrium at Building 4 bore an acute resemblance to that of a concert just before the performer took stage. The queue outside the building was getting longer by the minute, while people craned their necks to get a better look at the guest speaker.

A few minutes later, famed architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava stepped onto the podium, to applause that thundered throughout the atrium. His name may not sound familiar to those outside the design community, but he has given rise to a challenging era of engineering marvels.

The former architect is responsible for some iconic buildings like the Athens Olympic Sports Complex and the Museum of Tomorrow.

Ironically, the architect opened the session to the music of Jonas Kvarnström, and began to delve into his work, much to the awe of the audience. According to the Spaniard,

Architecture is an art, like painting, sculpture and writing. Architecture nourishes itself from all these disciplines.

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In the book, Experiencing Architecture by E.A. Rasmussen, written in 1959, the author stresses that architects need to be jacks of all trades. This holds true even today.

Formerly an architect, Dr. Calatrava went on to study civil engineering and then received a doctorate in Mechanics. His extensive formal education in both architecture and engineering gives him the ability to think from both points of view while designing a structure.

Commissioned by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to design the UAE National Pavilion for the Expo 2020, Dr. Calatrava was inspired by the wings of a dove. This avian concept can be noticed in most of his projects like the Oculus in New York.

Furthermore, he won the prestigious competition to design the tallest building in Dubai, for which the foundation has been laid recently. He described it as “the most beautiful tower in Dubai”.

According to him, every city needs a landmark at the centre, and a network will emanate from that point like the petals of a flower. This creates a poetic statement that is essential for a city to become significant.

Imagine Dubai as that flower, arranging itself around the Dubai Creek Tower.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to us that Dubai is a city with growing ambition and an innate hunger to be iconic. Dr. Calatrava said it reminds him of his hometown in Spain – how it strived hard to become connected.

Can you see the future of Dubai?

A heated debate followed between the diverse panelists, architect Aziza Chaouni and curator Mohamed Elshahed.

What does iconic really mean?

Does a tower represent the various iconic facets of Islamic culture and architecture?

Could a city have too many iconic buildings?

Tell us what you think of these questions in the comments below.

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