A BREAK IN THE ACTION: Stalled cranes and shells of structures stand in contrast with the exuberant building boom of the last two decades along Sheikh Zayed Road.
Many of the city-state’s bigger-than-life projects may be in a holding pattern, but don’t look for its mega-growth world influence to be contained any time soon.
By Christopher Hawthorne, Architecture Critic
June 21, 2009
Reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates — If a city can be spectacularly quiet, this waterfront city-state has certainly qualified in recent months. Hundreds of abandoned construction cranes languish above Dubai’s gated communities and beach-side developments and, most dramatically, up and down Sheikh Zayed Road, its high-rise spine. According to a recent estimate in the Middle East Economic Digest, projects worth a staggering $335 billion in the United Arab Emirates — of which Dubai, with a population of about 2 million, is the largest member — are stalled or have been canceled outright.
Dubai’s residents, roughly 85% of them expatriates, have been left to wonder if the current crisis is merely a pause, a recessionary lull that will be painful but temporary, or closer to a fundamental reckoning that will entirely reorder the emirate and how it does business. The same question is being asked in cities around the world, of course. But it’s a particularly acute, even existential one here, since it goes right to the heart of Dubai’s self-image.