[ENC094] Retrofit + shrink wrap Dubai : an urban recovery plan

ENC 094 Shrinking Dubai


Retrofit + shrink wrap Dubai : an urban recovery plan 

by Charles H. Curran, M. Arch. Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Dubai is in crisis. The overall vacancy rate of the city continues to grow as more buildings come online with few or no tenants; moreover, the population has declined by one quarter of a million in 2009 alone. Dubai’s economic engine, which quickly transformed huge amounts of capital into new architectural «bling,» has stalled, revealing the underlying instability of a city built on speculation rather than foresight. Large swathes of the city remain incomplete and largely uninhabited, creating vast urban blights. Dubai risks damage to both its image and its ability to function. The city’s decline, however, presents a unique opportunity for immediate and sweeping intervention against urban decay. My thesis proposes a dialectical planning process of retrofitting and shrink-wrapping Dubai. The retrofit strategy engages stopped building projects crucial to Dubai’s function and image. The technical goal is to generate corridors of urbanity that permit the city to operate while the population and economy recover. The theoretical aim is not to produce new models for planning, but to generate design proposals that overtly critique and improve upon the existing built environment. The shrink-wrap strategy repositions Dubai’s vast oversupply of real estate as an investment for the future. This directive removes redundant buildings or even whole developments from the market and preserves them for eventual redeployment. The goal is to create an image of progressiveness and anticipation, while also physically maintaining these built assets to prevent further economic loses. These planning strategies are posited as theoretical and marketable rationales for investment in Dubai’s urban future.


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