The Charter of Dubai is a manifesto of urban readjustment.
The Charter has been drafted at a moment in time when the global real estate market has ground to a halt. Looking around, we find ourselves with the remains of an investment practice that focuses on built premium spaces: malls, business parks, gated communities, retreats, resorts.
The document is based on the thesis that the luxury refuges of today will be inevitably reclaimed. A flicker fathomed in time, the refuges will be integrated into the larger context of tomorrow’s open city and released into the dynamics of the environment.
Why call these premium spaces refuges? From a macro-spatial perspective, it is evident that these spaces form enclaves which withdraw from the wider city, or withdraw from society altogether. Across the world, these refuges have been confirming the tendency towards the development of a fragmented and socially stratified urbanity, which was pertinently described as splintering urbanism by Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin.
Taking up their argument, the self-contained resort is a subterfuge – a deception of independence – because these refuges extend their infrastructure and influence across borders and boundaries undetected. In turn, they squander resources at the expense and exclusion of others. It is also a misconception related to this topic that cities are separate from nature and do not need to be considered in the study of ecosystems.
The task at hand, now: How to turn the refuge from a traditional burgh (a fortified town) into a borough, a quarter that is a functional and thorough part of the urban landscape?
The Palm Jumeirah, also called the Palm Dubai, is not only the most spectacular of upscale refuges but it is also the paradigm: the ultimate diagram in terms of figure, internal organisation and external relations. This is why it serves as both a case study of critique and a test for transformation. Several measures of transformation are explored on the Palm while synchronically leveraged as general principles applicable to any upscale refuge.
The methodology is based on the notion that the luxury refuges built during the last real estate boom present a massive societal investment in terms of capital, expertise and labour. They have been built to speculate on a heated real estate market; not on necessity nor to live in. On the Palm, so-called virtual villas have been bought and re-sold ten times before the first stone was laid. Prices tripled and when they suddenly fell, people with no actual interest in using the homes called themselves owners. In the aftermath, what remains of these dysfunctional spectres is the laid-out infrastructure, literally the earthwork, roads, cables, tubes, and building stock.
The infrastructural skeleton, stripped bare from the fattened values of an economy of attention and speculation, provides the substance that should be worked with. By addressing the structural logics of the refuge, the points of critique become stepping stones of intervention and moreover provide opportunity for minimal incursions with major effects.
Each chapter of the Charter structures a scenario, or an idea for intervention; they are vignettes for further study. In particular, they introduce an aim and value, provide a critique and opportunity, and finally outline measurements of transformation and the subsequent benefits.
re:form - from spectacular image to urban figure
re:cover - from sand as land to dynamic environments of wind and water
re:source - from demanding air-conditioning to light, shade, and breeze
re:block - from controlled check points to a permeable grid
re:zone - from partitioned sameness to an exploration of difference
re:lock - from invisible gates to articulated entries
re:divide - from enclosure exclusion to cultural diversification
re:gain - from property speculation to social appropriation
re:plot - from grand estates to affordable dwelling aggregates
re:use - from under-utilized yards to common courtyards
re:view - from billboard architecture to local types
X-Palm is a possible result from the application of the Charter of Dubai.
for more see Cornell Journal for Architecture
Status: Under Construction
Location: Dubai, AE