Posted on December 14, 2018
Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and a centerpiece of downtown Dubai, is also central to the Dubai government’s push to diversify its economy beyond oil. In pursuit of the dream of becoming a center for tourism, real estate and other investment, a new metropolis and collection of skyscrapers has sprung from the desert floor.
Dozens of nearby buildings are under construction — including some that would dwarf the skylines of other cities. Construction labor is provided by South Asians and other foreigners at very low wages. The rules and legal rights of non-citizens, especially for those without wealth, remain unclear and subject to change. Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates, and is ruled by its Emir, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
There is a gloss of modernity, consumerism, and openness to tourism and investment from around the world. But underneath — even for the casual visitor — there is also a tension caused by glimpses of exploitation of workers from other lands, codes of behavior with invisible lines that must not be crossed, and a dispiriting effect from the lack of human-scaled spaces and structures in and around the downtown.
Many of these pictures were taken from the observation deck on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa. There is a second, more expensive observation area on the 148th floor, 6 floors of corporate suites above that, and another 9 floors for mechanical, communication and broadcast equipment.
Posted on November 28, 2018
It isn’t exactly instant, but in the space of a few decades, Abu Dhabi has gone from a desert town to a metropolis. Skyscrapers are sprouting from the ground, and the camel’s nose of oil wealth is much more than just under the tent.
Development may be a strategy to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil, but it is hard to imagine who will occupy all these expensive new buildings coming onto the market all at once. On the other hand, just building them may be the more immediate goal right now.
Posted on August 10, 2018
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is imposing and beautiful – perhaps the most stunning structure in this modern city littered with immense and stunning structures rising out of the desert floor.
The courtyard, paved in a floral marble mosaic is approximately 180,000 square feet. The hand-made carpet inside is believed to be the largest in the world, measuring over 60,000 square feet, and weighing 35 tons. The chandeliers hanging in the center of the main rooms are studded with thousands of Swarovski crystals.
Over 3,000 people were employed in the mosque’s construction, from 1996 to 2007. Artisans and materials came from countries around the world, from India to the United Kingdom, and Italy to New Zealand. It is hard to comprehend the expense and the labor lavished on of this place of worship — intended as a monument to Islamic diversity and historical and modern art and architecture, according to the Sheikh after which it is named.
Posted on May 7, 2018
There is a magic in the garden. One can see the cycle of life, plants emerging, others flowering, some healing wounds, and still others dropping leaves and flowers in preparation for their next stage. By nature some are expanding, competing for air and water and space, while others live in cooperation providing benefits to their neighbors and partners. And of course, there is the rich diversity of nature.
Each time I visit it seems different. Not just different plants in bloom, but the magic and wonder of it has somehow shifted. Or maybe it is me that has changed, and I just notice different things. Here are a few I noticed during one of my recent visits.
Posted on March 29, 2017
There has been a lot of talk about walls — and one wall in particular — lately. As it happens, I’ve been making images of walls lately, too. Below are a few.
As you look at them, consider these things about walls (and fences). They can keep us out … or in. They separate us from others, but can also protect us from harm. They can be a canvas for light and reflections, or have designs of their own. Some can become homes to house people and businesses, while other walls and barriers may define or limit our opportunities. But then, for some, creating and building these walls can be an opportunity in itself. What has been your experience with walls and fences?
Posted on December 27, 2016
The city of New Orleans is a rich mix of the modern and the old, of wealth and poverty, of music, historic buildings, a new flourishing arts district, and all the good and the bad of the culture of the Deep South.
In areas like the French Quarter the excitement — and sometimes drunkenness — of the tourists floats like a thin sheen over the hardships endured by the street performers and service staff, the poverty of nearby neighborhoods, and the failures of the public sector to provide services and maintain public facilities. Of course, visitors are encouraged to look past all that, but it is there and is a part of what makes New Orleans what it is.
Posted on August 26, 2016
Sarasota is a town on the cusp of becoming a city. And there’s a building boom going on downtown — mostly hotels and high-end condominiums. One, ironically named “The Vue,” blocks some of the view of Sarasota Bay as it crowds in just a few feet from two of the busiest streets in town in a very pedestrian-unfriendly way.
This surge of new construction dwarfs the older “historic” parts of downtown. Of course, change and growth can add vitality and diversity to a community, helping it become a city. On the other hand, too much of one thing can put a community out of balance and sap its strength.
Many of these new buildings will be filled with wealthy older residents looking for a low-key but upscale lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that — unless, of course, they put up a metaphorical wall around downtown to keep out others who are different. In that case, this new growth will suffocate rather than vitalize, and the town will become not a city, but a slightly more dense area of the sprawl that is so much of Florida.
Which will it be for Sarasota? The jury is out.