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Wed 2 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

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Possible impossibilities

Renowned American poet and editor William Cullen Bryant once wrote, "A sculptor wields the chisel, and the stricken marble grows to beauty."

Renowned American poet and editor William Cullen Bryant once wrote, "A sculptor wields the chisel, and the stricken marble grows to beauty."

Although Bryant's sentiments came in the mid-19th century, 150 years later, they apply directly to architecture in the modern Middle East.

In a region where extravagance is the currency of status and "bling-bling architecture" is actually a legitimate style, marble has long been the symbol of luxurious living. Unfortunately, however, there is a considerable contingent of architects and interior designers that don't share their clients' love of the material.

It cracks. It decays easily. It doesn't perform. It's too soft. It's always installed improperly. All of these are sentiments that were echoed throughout the industry as I researched this month's feature, Losing Your Marbles. But, despite all of these criticisms, marble continues to be specified in commercial and residential projects at ever-increasing rates.

Why? Because it's beautiful. Bryant was right and Middle Eastern clients are justified in choosing it. It is pretty. It is a gorgeous material that simply under-performs in regional applications. But, as is seen in other facets of life in the Middle East, that which is functional often gives way to that which is aesthetically pleasing.

That said, regional land developers are also wielding their proverbial chisels to sculpt reclaimed islands into myriad shapes and sizes, while awestruck onlookers and investors marvel at their ingenuity and empty their wallets to acquire pieces of them.

At the New York City launch of Dubai's Trump International Hotel & Tower on June 24th, it was revealed that the glazed diamond-shaped penthouses of the ultramodern rocket-like building will set new records for property value in Dubai.

"Nakheel is best known for creating larger than life developments...and Donald J. Trump is synonymous with luxury and glamour. Both are famous for making the impossible possible," said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Nakheel.

In perfect architectural tradition, it would seem that in Dubai, Trump Enterprises and Nakheel are wielding their chisels and the stricken marble will be equal parts beautiful, luxurious and costly.

Jeff Roberts is the editor of Middle East Architect.

RELATED LINK:Losing your marbles

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