Here Ye, Here Ye, Banksy is in Town
Dubai – The Creative Hub of Middle East
In reality Dubai, unquestionably the Capital of the UAE and Middle East, is the New York City of the Gulf and undoubtedly the strategic location where business people want to meet to discuss commercial enterprises across other parts of North Africa and is the strategic neutral zone between the Eastern and Western worlds.
Dubai, Dubai so good they named it twice or am I getting it mixed up with a different architecture-enriched city?
Looking out of my window at the tallest building in the world against a bright blue sky with perhaps the best coffee in the world in my hand, I am reminded of some of the notable creative developments that are set to take over the design scene in my ‘adopted’ city. With a growing international community, Dubai plays host to expats from around the world who comprises 85% of the population along with some of the basic vestiges of a society still young, creative and learning to trust their way through modernisation. Below is why this city should be on the radar for design individuals in recent times and, in contrast, some of the items that still slow down the city’s progress, but also suggesting how you can get around the system.
Architectural Gains and Creative Commitments
Dubai winning the bid to host the World Expo 2020 was a triumphant moment for the nation, especially for the country’s architecture and infrastructure industry. Beating off rival bids from global giants such as Brazil, Turkey and Russia, this had triggered a huge wave of developed and entrepreneurial start-up hubs. Although world expositions can sometimes be less significantly high profile as hosting the Olympics or World Cups, Dubai certainly made sure that they lived up to the expectations with a frenzy of marketing activities promoting upcoming design, architecture, infrastructure, tourism as well as economy boost in the Gulf region.
The win for Dubai shows great promise to astonish the world with another potential architecture and culture boom. As Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum so eloquently puts it “Dubai Expo 2020 will breathe new life into the ancient role of the Middle East as a melting pot for cultures and creativity”. Being the first Middle Eastern nation to host this 6-month long trade exhibition in the expo’s 150-year old history, Dubai is on the verge of infrastructure boom with projects ranging from the new behemoth exhibition centre, new hotels and a superb extension to the city’s metro line.
Accompanying the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, Dubai will undoubtedly be elevating its status as a global destination for innovative design while highlighting it’s commitment to sustainability. The new masterplan for the World Expo, designed by the renowned design practice HOK and inspired by traditional Arabian marketplace architecture, is set to be the focal point of the new transformation for the city which will also mark Dubai’s golden jubilee celebrations. The expo, which will host over a hundred nations showing off the latest in architecture and technology, hopes to be the platform to promote an era of progressive thinking and sustainability. Once Dubai has developed and delivered this than the city will be perfectly positioned to be the global hub for expos and global group gatherings. Think of MIPIM in Cannes and then multiply it by 100.
According to the Wall Street Journal the reason the expo is significant is because other than the implications with tourism, the government’s spending on the economy predicted at $7 billion on infrastructure and the bulk of all construction will manifest from this year until 2019. Thereafter in 2020 we are expected to welcome 25 million visitors over a 6-12 month programme. This is expected to require up to 277,000 additional people to the workforce in the creation of new jobs, but many of these will be in the service sector.
On that note Dubai, I have to add that being a resident in the city it really does have superb customer service along with a growing programme for world-class concerts and sporting events such as the Dubai Sevens and the Dubai World Cup. The city also welcomes international film community to shoot at some of the prominent locations dotted all across Dubai as well being a source of inspirations of elaborate set designs for various production companies.
Our particular architectural highlight that boasts modernist cultural sensitivity and growth in sophistication is the Dubai Frame project. This is a couple of 150 metre towers with a 93m gap, linked by a 100 square metre bridge. Although, it has had a mixed reception from various design critics, this architectural feat can be considered as the La Defence of Dubai and certainly plays a pivotal role in making people slowdown from all the bustle around, take a breather and just enjoy some of the beautiful panorama of the city.
As a growing city, Dubai does have a lot going on but where it excels in design and infrastructure it also lacks in certain functional aspects of modern day living such as social renting of property. This is the single-handedly has become the biggest issue that most candidates confide has become a growing concern for them as rental depends on the issue of the ‘One Cheque’ scenario. For those that are uninitiated, this is when a landlord asks you for a cheque a year in advance to cover the rent. Whilst this is sensible for the landlord as it mitigates against the risk of a defaulting tenant, it is tricky for a young architect, designer or professionals in general who might not be sat on a pile of cash.
So here is our advice; ask around and if your employer either can’t or won’t help then propose to the landlord that it would be achievable to get the property if the rent were paid in advance with 2 or 3 cheques, so the landlord still enjoys the benefit of advanced payments but just not as one hit.
Despite the difficulties in renting properties, Dubai is still a great time for aspiring architects and designers to start a new career due to the frequent changes of regulation governing employment in Dubai. With every new change it seems to have a closer alignment with the West and has shown positive influence of having more employee focused environment at workplaces. For the local employment landscape, especially in design based practices, things are looking up on the positive side and overall Dubai is a great place to expand your horizons both professionally and culturally.