SCI-Arc Does Dubai

This video is an urban proposal for Dubai, done by SCI-Arc's 2008 SCI-Fi studio.
I'd appreciate any comments.

Apr 18, 08 11:09 pm

Bravo SCI-FI... you've made me proud to be an Alum. The interior 3D visuals could use some work NOT to look like a futuristic pet store, but overall well done. Your presentation also comes off as a sales pitch. I'd be interested in hearing the results of research conducted in these camps about what the workers want. Though, the grid / integration / inner core ideas are commendable.

If you mention IKEA or something similar, be sure to make that a part of your strategy. Maybe you give these workers the tools to create their own furniture or underground economy, further stimulating the situation. For instance, IKEA uses a basic set of connections and materials based on economy and ease of use with said cheap materials. What materials are prevalent in Dubai / UAE? How do these strategies help mitigate traffic? And most importantly...

What do these workers do for leisure? I'd be cool for you to go a step further and do a post-interview with workers like the plan was adopted. Cross the boundary of time in your sales pitch and embrace your idea of integration within the presentation.


Apr 18, 08 11:49 pm  · 

but, this is legitimizing apartheid. each building is like a powder keg with an explosive inner core.

Apr 19, 08 12:43 am  · 

Yes I tend to agree with Orhan Ayyuce; this idea of "separated cohabitation" seems like a disrespectful direction to head in.

In my opinion, low-income workers of Dubai living in sub-standard housing isn't the problem, it's only one of many manifestations of the problem- that being: a general disregard for our environment, and for the humane treatment of fellow human beings in order to pursue a lifestyle of selfish luxury.

By seeking to rectify only the manifestation of the problem, you sanction and contribute to the mistreatment of others.

Apr 19, 08 1:03 am  · 

... And council district boundaries that use infrastructural lines as gates don't promote apartheid? In a similar sense to what SCI-FI is promoting for Dubai, if we inserted these powder kegs with the cores inverted to house true protected financial / leisure centers on a grid throughout Los Angeles, wouldn't that help OUR city approach integration & sustainability from a completely new perspective? Reliance on "the line from a to b" / "the boundary line" may be the problem. As a counterpoint to Eric's comments about 15 districts being the problem, maybe we need more districts... further lessening the power, not increasing it. Connections to cooperative points would be easier to make, and as Nakazawa points out promoting "clusters" would become more prevalent in reaction to the overlaid grid. My point being "the line" connects A & B... "the grid" connects A & A.

Apr 19, 08 1:10 am  · 

Yes and no to the apartheid. The guest workers to Dubai are there strictly on a three year visa.

In their stay, they typically earn 10 times more than they would at their home country, and leave with more than enough money.

Considering that there is no perpetual cycle of poverty passed along generation after another in Dubai, and considering that we were seeking a solution that may be humane yet not a socialist revolution, we tried to create as dignified solution as possible that may be picked up by the powers that be.

And, no, the futuristic interior isn't what's humane, it's proximity to their work (and thus giving them time for leisure or a greater earning), a place for community inside the mix-use nature of the buildings, natural light, and fresh air -along with sustainable solution which combines passive and active cooling.

Having said that, yes, there is a serious problem of inequality in the world, but should architects only stick to pro bono works in Habitats for Humanity?
Or, can we, under the constraints of globalist capitalism, try our best to come up with a solution - or in our case, a sales pitch - to the powers that be?

Apr 19, 08 4:19 am  · 

i think it is dangerous ground to argue this proposal from the point of pragmatism. yes, the proposal is commendable, or at least a step up from the current order, but i don't think it is dignified. it exist only within the acceptance of the status quo, and i don't think you should rationalize the fact that that is exactly what you are doing - accepting the status quo. for me, the next step is to test and evaluate what this micro-economy would/could produce, and to see it as a stepping point for change.

Apr 19, 08 4:40 am  · 

it is definitely more sustainable to empower worker's own micro economy to improve housing conditions during their stay. this could be done via certain type of tax withheld from employers and/or some kind of co-op structures that could be put in place and such...

i just don't see this type of slave ship like buildings with god awful segregation conditions doing anything good for the workers.
didn't you guys asked yourselves any questions about human dignity? is this all arranged like this, so, some luxury purchaser don't have to be subject to seeing any of the slaves when not needed?
the whole project looks like a supressive military invention that could be used for a more peaceful purpose after the war. ie; i find infrastructure of building site locations and connections useful for some kind of urban patterns, cluster community models etc...
but cache-ing near slaves when not in use is not a very bright picture, is it?

Apr 20, 08 12:24 am  · 
MArch n' unemployed

i just want to watch the video :(

Apr 20, 08 12:34 am  · 

this is a fascinating debate, what happened to the video?

Apr 20, 08 12:51 am  · 

Dubai does Dallas.

Apr 20, 08 12:56 am  · 

Uh... Orhan, you're acting like this does not happen already. You don't think developers are keenly aware of where low-income units are located within a tower? And if you were from a horribly oppressed nation and had the opportunity to go make 10x the money you could at home to provide for your family wouldn't you go? Slave labor? Come on. I'm sure the conditions are not pro-union. You're playing the fiddle of segregation when what we are really talking about is stratification--which incidentally will never go away--especially when we're are talking about some of these workers coming from countries that still believe you are born into a caste system. I believe this particular SCI-FI project is attempting to put forth another vision of integration, something less like Palm Springs or Las Vegas and more like a live-in Disneyland. I think the ideas are solid.

Apr 20, 08 1:05 am  · 

just because it happens elsewhere does not legitimize anything for me. shit happens, so you'd go shit all over?
as long as you pay $150 a month from your high luxury level income, you have no problem exploiting a human being from an 'oppressed nation' as your slave servant? mister, you are an angel of opportunity!
anyway, i understand you don't have any problem with the segregated living, i do.
especially when a project enhancing this type of exploitation dreamed up in a seemingly progressive school of architecture.

hey! where is the video?

Apr 20, 08 1:17 am  · 

Thanks for the posts. I think it's rather hard for anyone to imagine the plight of the low income workers in Dubai from the comfort of their desk.

To put it frankly they are already separated far beyond what the proposal stated, by the means of rent cost. The cost of living as determined by rent is not determined by an "evil" government, but by the market.

Also, the low income workers in Dubai are not being exploited.

Let's think of how you are living your life as of now. If you really think that someone who's flipping your burgers, doing your gardening, and taking out your trash in your neighborhood are not "exploited" I don't know what else to say. Would you decline from shopping in places where people are paid minimum wage? How about your Nikes made in sweat shops by 8 year olds?

Dubai does not have child labor, the service workers are paid ten times more than they would have at home, they get medical benefits and legal protection.

No one is forced into Dubai as a part of slave labor, and people come of their own volition, and are paid fairly. In fact, even the higher income expatriates do not have a voice in how the society is ran in Dubai. It's a transit city ran by a monarch, existing beyond the conventional notion of a nation state. It's not a discussion of an oppressive nation, as it is in fact, empowering the guest workers by giving them an opportunity to earn far greater than their country of origin. If you want to look at the conditions of Mumbai, Pakistan, and South Asia, in which these service workers actually originate from, you'll understand the severity of the actual oppression of poverty that exists in their home country.

So before passing a prejudiced judgment, possibly based upon generalization, I ask that you take a position of an open mind and see how, realistically, can we propose something that may keep a system running in a more dignified manner.

The proposal never stated that the low income workers will be forced to stay inside their tower once work is done. Furthermore, they will pay rent, and are free to move out if they have the means to do so.

The video has removed temporarily and will return once some editing issues are taken care of. Thanks again for the interest, and I hope this created a venue in which a deeper understanding of a place such as Dubai may arise - one in which we as architects can operate under a profit driven class system (as we have throughout the history) and yet create as much altruistic solution possible rather than sit out of the discourse altogther on our high horses.

Apr 20, 08 2:58 am  · 
In fact, even the higher income expatriates do not have a voice in how the society is ran in Dubai.
They do have a voice in how society runs in Dubai. By their choice of expertise they are concretizing existing inequities.

The proposal never stated that the low income workers will be forced to stay inside their tower once work is done. Furthermore, they will pay rent, and are free to move out if they have the means to do so.
IF they are free to do so.

Broken system. Tweak it so it functions better. Sorry, but there is another choice, and that is to not become involved in a society that promotes inequity, segregation and unsustainable development. But then our design ejaculations would be flushed away and not built.
Apr 20, 08 12:31 pm  · 


Apr 20, 08 2:01 pm  · 

personally, i'm not arguing for the high road approach by boycotting participation in Dubai, but quite the opposite. I think a more dignified solution can be found on the ground, and does not end at what you proposed. i understand your studio traveled to Dubai, and am curious whether you guys interacted with these migrant workers in order to understand their reality.

for me, the proposal is the beginning of something interesting, but the position you have taken has regressed to a top-down understanding of these migrant workers.

is it beyond critique because it exists within this so-called 'market'? (btw, the market as a more democratic system is a false assumption). yes some may have health insurance, yes most are making higher pay, but there are basic human rights that are being overlooked through your reasoning. namely,

1. limited economic mobility
2. social-casting and segregation
3. restricted participation in culture

the question is, how can your proposal add to a new system that can begin to rectify these problems?

again, i think it is a commendable proposal, but i think you've lost sight of the endgame through how much you integrated into the system to the point that it seems you favor the system.

Apr 20, 08 9:05 pm  · 

interesting debate but where´s the video?

Apr 21, 08 10:02 am  · 

maybe they weren't ready for so many hits, and wanted to edit it to make it better?

Apr 21, 08 10:32 am  · 

any updates on the video?

Apr 23, 08 4:27 pm  · 

wow, i didn't catch this thread when it came out last week, still being redone i guess...

the discussion reminds me of book by james scott called seeing like a state. is kind of old now but is still relevant. scott makes very good point about how/why humans always tend to do stupid things when they organise societys...paternal tendency is to make life harder rather than better...

Apr 30, 08 5:57 am  · 


Apr 30, 08 8:53 am  · 


Apr 30, 08 2:59 pm  · 

i guess this is the new video and it is now an infomercial?

May 15, 08 12:34 pm  · 

Uh yeah,
I like it even less now...

May 15, 08 1:37 pm  · 
Mission St.

I just watched the video. ... .... ..... I'm still trying to figure out what they are proposing that is unique or interesting.
Perhaps they are suggesting a closer collaboration btwn architecture/planning/construction and government agencies? Maybe?
But I still don't get what the benefits are for U.A.E. government.

Long-term I think U.A.E.'s strategy of shifting to a tourism-based economy is perilous. I hope they save some of that oil money for the lean times.

Considering a holiday trip to Dubai? Don't forget to do a thorough detox before you go. Having even trace amounts of illegal drugs in your system or on your person carries a minimum four year jail sentence.
Free Grooverider!
(How big .076 ounces of pot?)

May 15, 08 9:19 pm  · 

Man, Grooverider..
Wow, that takes me back.
Nothing like some deep London space-bass...

May 15, 08 11:17 pm  · 
Jun 20, 08 9:04 pm  · 

shit! .076 ounces of pot!? that's like not even a nug! wtf!?

Jun 20, 08 11:06 pm  · 

separate but equal

i fucking hate this. i fucking hate dubai. why realize and try and change the social issues we have today of a constantly separating upper and lower class when we can make the lives of the upper better and the lives of the lower not suck AS MUCH.

im sorry but if this project was to fix a social problem, you missed the "society" part

stop fucking listening to zizek


Jun 21, 08 12:01 am  · 

yeah fuck that

Jun 21, 08 3:46 am  · 
chatter of clouds

was watching an interview with a bahreni writer/member of parliment (or somethin) on Al Jazeera; the gist of which is that the Gulf might very well soon be de-arabized by virtue of the overwhelming foreign (specifically non arab) labour into the country and the systems being set up to allow them to stay in the country (of course this would apply to middle class and above). As an example,only 10% of the Emirates states work force are citizens, this applies equally to Qatar and to a slightly smaller extent the other Gulf states. He compared this to the relatively insignificant percentage of foreign labour allowed into Europe and the essentially xenophobic paranoia their presence has roused. The country is really run by and for $$$/AED's. There was a comparison to Las Vegas in some other thread; i don't think this is valid at all as Las Vegas is thoroughly american in its way whereas Dubai is more and more culturally "global" and less culturally specific.

So imagine when the poorer labour class, especially from the indian subcontinent, truly realize their power within Dubai. Also imagine when oil gets scarce or when, hopefully for its own sake, the world weans off fuel for more sustainable energy sources, or when oil prices lead to further strikes and maybe leading to civil disobedience or disputes/wars breaking between oil-hungry emergent'established world powers. Is Dubai, purportedly a stable haven within the region, really stable in the longer run? Will it still be able to maintain its internal citizenship system...will there be a time when the currently largely elite richer less work-dependent citizen will become subordinate to the less oil-dependent foreigners and would they be able to do anything about it? Could there be a war between the upper and lower classes once Dubai is so saturated with the working poor living under unreasonable conditions and with the weaking force of "national" interest (given the probabilities mentioned above)? Or would Dubai be forced into being a real global nationally-desanitized democracy that has not existed yet in the contemporary world? Or will there be a backlash from the gulf nationals prior to this and kick foreign butt out?

Jun 21, 08 5:35 am  · 
chatter of clouds

weakening force of "national" interest, I say

Jun 21, 08 5:37 am  · 

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