By Ben Flanagan
The Burj Al Arabi - expected to win the coveted ‘biggest concrete and glass human shaped building in the world' award - will be a great blow to the snobs.
‘Marhaba!’, you could almost imagine the figure in the white dish dash as saying.
Except that, given that he will be 140 metres tall and made out of concrete and glass, he probably won’t be talking much.
The Burj Al Arabi, it was announced this week, will be the latest addition to Dubai’s skyline. It is a tower built to resemble a man in Arab dress.
The AED500 million building set for construction by the AAA Group at Dubai World’s Jumeirah Village development ‘will act as a truly welcoming beacon for people flying into the new Jebel Ali International Airport’ according to press material.
It’s even expected to make the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the biggest concrete and glass human shaped building in the world’ when completed in 2009. This is, surely, a new category.
You could not imagine such a thing being built in, say, Paris or London. In fact, you couldn’t imagine it actually being on – let alone make it off – the drawing boards anywhere else in the world.
But in Dubai, it somehow fits. And this is exactly why the Burj Al Arabi should be celebrated. The building is not just a symbol of local dress conventions. It is a symbol of all that is new and daring about the UAE, while also paying homage to its Islamic traditions.
Local Islamic scholar Mr Ahmed Al Kubaisi has praised the building as honouring ‘the religion, culture and language of the Arab people from a real estate perspective.'
That is true – but there is also an element of fun about the new building. The vast majority of the 400,000 sq ft floorspace of the Burj Al Arabi will be offices. Imagine arranging a meeting there – it would be one that your clients would never forget.
Like the Burj al Arab hotel and the ambitious Bawadi leisure development being built in Dubai, the building is bound to become an icon recognised by people around the world.
There will be architectural snobs who say ‘you can’t build that’. But, in Dubai, you can – and people will want to come and see it. And, with the emirate hoping to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2010, it makes economic sense to build something as different, and daring, as this.
Time will tell whether it will be the architectural snobs, or the people of Dubai, that have the last laugh. But my money is on the latter.