Dubai/ National identity and the living unit II
The disappearance of National Identity
Examining Dubai in particular, the housings built were less catered for the locals, but rather for migrants and foreigners. Their innate identity was subdued and diminished due to the influx of new cultures and traditions, imposing itself over the countries original national identity. In 2016, Dubai’s population had risen to an estimated 2,504,000; yet native residents only consisted of 15 percent of the total population, whilst the rest were composed of mainly Asian expatriates stemming from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. (World Population Review. 2017) This conceptual gentrification effect could be one of the main reasons dictating the lack of cultural representations in the latter day’s of Dubai’s architectural landscape.
As the expatriate’s population within the country grew, so did the discrepancies of lifestyles adopted within the national community. An example; as an Islamic city, alcohol is prohibited and banned from being purchased by the general public in supermarkets. Though this is the law, it seemed to fall within a grey area as perceived by the public as champagnes and wines were sold in the bars of hotels and other establishment. (Anand. 2017) This ambiguity in both legal and public standards is ubiquitous in Dubai, and is ultimately a consequence of the globalization phenomenon.
As the effect of globalization strengthens, international firms continue to establish their eastern branches within Dubai, taking advantage of the new and existing developments within the city center. With the expatriate’s population overwhelming the national population of Dubai, designs of space were no longer expressive and aligned to the unique culture and traditions of Dubai. Buildings were designed to be compact and functional, emphasizing the efficient use of space in order to accommodate the exponentially expanded human inhabitants of this cultural and business amalgamated city. (Fry, n.d.)
Moreover, globalization led the architectural landscape within the city to be designed in more universal and general terms. Materials used consisted mostly of glass, steel and concrete, entities which emphasized functionality and practicality; sadly, the city no longer bears the unique identity it once held at the core of its existence, which pales even less in comparison when aligned to other cities within the country, all due to the consequence and summation of continued cultural neglect. Rather than the prestigious and historic Islamic hub that Dubai was once famous for, its current identity to the world is an unhealthy and tasteless mishmash of over the top extravagant lifestyles, skyscrapers, expensive exotic pets and gold. Although some aspects of its present form is to be appreciated, it is always unfortunate to witness a disintegration of cultural and historic vale amidst this continued effect of globalization.
Through the progression of globalization, Dubai’s architecture and in effect its residential units became unfathomably generic and universal, in the sense of catering to whatever its buyers and new inhabitants desired. The colorful and unique features of the traditional majlis, verdanah and courtyards were stripped and displaced by the basic and westernized terms of living and dining rooms. Adaptations of the aforementioned globalized terms and wordings were indeed more relevant for the foreign developers and designers; however with this transition, Dubai had gradually lost sight of its traditional infrastructural design and distinct special composition. With the fruition of globalization perpetuating this shift in Dubai’s architectural design standards, it’s living units were consequently and undeniably also losing its core conceptual Islamic architectural influence.
The world is currently going through a new era of globalization, where we are seeing an exponential increase in consolidation between people, cultural, and social landscapes at a universal scale. Although this does have its benefits when viewed through an economic lens, one cannot view solely observe and evaluate change from a single point of view, neglecting the intangible and soft factors that once made held Dubai up as a city of national importance.
In the route of discovering and establishing their identity in the present world of today, Dubai will continue to struggle to strike a fine balance between preservation and globalization. With this in mind, could a globalized city become an inevitability for this once historically significant city? Only time will tell…
Anand, S. (2017.) Booze and bulls***: The dark side of Dubai. News.com.au. http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/travellers-stories/burqas-booze-and-bull-the-dark-side-of-dubai/news-story/084d1acb89cd39e2bf72d6a59f696a45.
Al Hammadi, I. (2017.) Affordable housing in Dubai, a reality or mirage?.Linkedin. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/affordable-housing-dubai-reality-mirage-ismail-al-hammadi.
Fry, M. (n.d.) Globalisation and ‘placeless’ Architecture. Scribd. Retrieved from: https://zh.scribd.com/document/44003453/Globalisation-and-placeless-Architecture-Michael-Fry.
AlSayyad, N. (2010.) Culture, Identity and Urbanism: A Historical Perspective from Colonialism and Globalisation. London: Black Dog Publishing London UK.