Dubai’s process of rapid globalization has led to the completion of 270 towers over the past 15 years. With 336 under construction, and 333 additional towers built within the next decade, its expedited phase of development seeks to alleviate population growth and a booming tourist industry. Accepting the reality of this rapid growth, Dubai’s answer to these demands has increasingly been to construct privatized, single-phase mega-projects, intended to ‘organize massive grouped functions’ (Banham, 1976).
The implementation of the single phased mega-project has often resulted in numerous problems over the course of time including major delays, lack of supporting infrastructure, and a final product that evokes a sense of artificiality and detachment from the landscape. Symptomatic of these tower development issues was the Jumeriah Beach residence project, consisting of the simultaneous construction of 38 towers over a 36-month period.
Experiencing continual air and noise pollution from the 24-hour construction process, residents found themselves trapped from escaping the Jumeriah site as its lack of accessibility generated massive traffic jams. These factors, along with the exemption of promised gardens and recreational spaces, contributed to the deterioration of both social and perceptive ecologies.
Eventually, these complications unfold into the macro scale leading to urban sprawl, the over-consumption of resources, and the deterioration of environmental ecologies. The general passivity regarding these developments and the built environment has led the Emirate to witness the near depletion of all but 1% of its productive landscapes. Resultantly, the dependence on foreign arable land for agricultural commodities is a trade-off for the excessive use of desalinated water supplies to grow food on desert landscapes. The combination of these detriments has led to a hyper-dependence on dwindling petrol reserves, job loss, and further deterioration of environmental, social-cultural, and perceptive ecologies (Guattari, 2000).
An Overview - The ‘Vertical Landscraper’ looks to encourage an integrated thinking that mediates global/local dialectics through a series of phased tower clusters that emerge from a ‘thickened ground’ or ‘Condenser’ (Ruby, 2006). Serving as a ‘hybrid framework’ for temporary uses until market demands are suitable, the Condenser is equipped with the capital generating mechanisms, infrastructure, and flexibility to accommodate towers through vertical phasing, enabling the gradual densification of development (Fenton, 1985) (Lau, 2008). These deviations from which towers arise, are connected, and address the ground allows them to become sensitive to the deficiencies of the landscape.
Tying into Dubai’s local resources and emerging technologies enables the Condenser to facilitate towers that mediate natural and artificial environments, and germinate food for consumption and climate control (Despommier, 2008) (Yeang, 1994). The synthesis of the open-air Condenser, tower atrium, locally available seawater, sunlight, and airflows promote productive growing spaces throughout time. These processes, dependent on seasonality and natural resources, relay their demands to the interior organization of the towers. Therefore, this mode of interior urbanism constructs different social patterns between farmers, residents, and patrons that weave into a 24-hour cycle of events. By the nature of these processes, the towers become burdened with being more flexible and adaptive, while providing a greater accessibility. As a result, their embedded infrastructure becomes exposed and responsive, which deviates from the typical relationship towers have to social life and the metropolis.
About the Studio
This project situates itself as a landscape urbanists approach to a Dubai Tower Typology. It re-accesses the way in which towers address the landscape. This is a response to the myriad difficulties experienced with the single-phase mega-project. As such, the Vertical Landscraper seeks to:
• Re-access the relationship towers have with the landscape
• Vertically phase towers – allowing them to emerge from a box typology over time
• Weave interior and exterior landscapes
• Encourage permeability and local-global dialectics
• Use seasonality as a social construct with towers
• Facilitate communal living and vertical farming with natural resources in an open air hybrid typology
This project was developed by M. Ryan Wilson under the guidance of the AA’s Master of Arts in Landscape Urbanism tutors: Lawrence Barth, Eva Castro, David Mah, Sandra Morris and Eduardo Rico.