Defending Dubai

Last month, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, raised eyebrows in the Middle East by labelling an Australian development as “a clumsy Dubai-style” hotel. Moore’s attack was in response to plans for a second Sydney casino and a six-star 350-room hotel in Barangaroo, a new CBD underway in Sydney.

It was not the first time that Dubai has attracted negative criticism from Down Under. Last year, architect Philip Thalis labelled Richard Roger’s hotel in Barangaroo “the worst of Dubai ‘look at me’ architecture”.

A few weeks ago, we published a story about Moore’s comments on and It attracted several thousand page impressions, as well as many comments from our online readers.

Tariq from Abu Dhabi posted: “It is a pity that a political figure has to denigrate others to bring attention to her particular subjective viewpoint. The comment made was unnecessary and only serves to damage international relations.”Other readers leapt to the defence of Dubai’s buildings and labelled Sydney’s architecture as ‘boring’.  Elmer Fabros from Saudi Arabia commented: “Dubai architecture is not clumsy.

In fact, it is fascinating, as they have unlimited funds to experiment and produce fantastic designs. For other areas, they have limited funds, thus produce only standard, boring designs and are jealous of Dubai.”However, one commenter on sympathised with Moore, stating: “It is really true that most of the so called modern towers of Dubai which were built in the last few years are perfect examples of ‘look at me’ architecture.

“They looked like everyone involved was too hungry for fame and attention during the real estate boom here. Surprisingly, most of these non-architectural towers were designed by some of the world’s top architectural firms.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Sydney professional Mick Dundee posted: “Most Sydney buildings are boring, built-to-a-price boxes. I have worked in Sydney and Dubai and know which buildings I prefer to both work on and look at.”

The passionate defence of Dubai’s architecture from a Sydney reader suggests Moore’s comment was perhaps misjudged. Granted, Dubai contains buildings that could be termed ‘clumsy’, but this trait is not confined to the Emirates or the Middle East.

For example, my home city of London contains countless post-war concrete monstrosities that sit next to historic buildings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.Other modern buildings in London could be termed boring, due to conservative restrictions and mindsets.

This mindset was evident in the rejection of Daniel Libeskind’s 1997 proposed extension to the Victoria & Albert Museum – a project that would have set the architecture world alight at the time.Architects in Dubai and the GCC are certainly freer in many respects.

Projects such as the 828m-high Burj Khalifa and the twisting Infinity Tower push the possibilities of architecture and engineering. One thing is for certain: Dubai’s architecture is certainly not boring.