Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spacetime and Identity: The 4th Dimension of Tall Buildings Aestainability in the Gulf Region

Spacetime and Identity: The 4th Dimension of Tall Buildings Aestainability in the Gulf Region



This is a discussion of the evolution of tall buildings in the Gulf region as exemplary of the interaction between spacetime and identity in many parts of the world. The rapid change and speed that the Gulf region is an ideal condition to study this phenomenon. Tall buildings constitute a significant part of this change and transformation. The emerging cities of the Gulf region are witnessing rapid increase in the number of high-rise, tall and super-tall buildings. According to the CTBUH, one quarter of the world's future tallest building projects will be based within the Middle East region, specifically Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Aside from satisfying functional and economic needs, tall buildings are becoming symbols of modernization, development, and globalization. They are sources of national pride and cultural identity expressing globalization and economic prosperity. Yet, they pose a challenge integrating them within the urban fabric of emerging cities of the Gulf region. There is increasing concern among professional of the impact of tall buildings on urban habitat. The  socio-cultural sustainability of tall buildings are essential part of global city image. It is critical to understand the phenomenon of constructing tall buildings in the Gulf region as new building type that contributes to the relationship between spacetime and identity and the Aestainability, or the Aesthetics of sustainability, in the emerging Gulf cities. Virilio’s concept of dromology (1986) is  an attempt to understand the process and speed of change in the cities of the Gulf region and its contribution to the transformation of cultural identity. 
Tall buildings contribute to the shaping and changing of cultural identity of cities in the Gulf region. Measures  should be considered when designing tall buildings to participate positively in shaping the contemporary and future city identity. They include; controlling the speed of change produced by tall buildings, social interaction on the street level, planning and distribution of tall buildings in the city, forms and codes used to integrate them in the city, materials and technology employed to construct them, environmental and economic impact on the city and, in general, the role of tall buildings in the city as providers of cultural and identity.
Why is identity important? In our rapidly globalized world, based on transportation and communication technologies, rapid changes and transformations are alienating people from their surrounding environments and creating segregated and exclusive spaces in the city based on economic and spatial separation. This results in disintegrated city life that is fundamentally against the purpose of the city. Elements of cultural identity: language, music, religion, social, institutions, history, … and architecture. The problem of tall and suprtall buildings is that they are a new form cultural identity in the Gulf cities that were until very recently deriving their identity from small scale, low rise images. This sudden shift is problematic for many when they witness the rise of more and more tall buildings in the region.