Hyperabia: On Urban Space & Architecture in the United Arab Emirates

Boris Brorman Jensen

First published in an exhibition catalogue from Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, March 2014.

Intensive globalization has been the order of the day in the United Arab Emirates in recent years. Boris Brorman Jensen focuses on architectural developments in two of the Emirates with the question “Is there a locally distinct architecture, or is it subject to the spirit of the global market?”

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[1] The German sociologist Max Weber distinguishes between legal, traditional and charismatic authority. Here, on the basis of my own judgement, I have pointed to traditional and charismatic domination as the pillars of the form of government in the Emirates. See Max Weber: Makt og Byråkrati, Copenhagen, Gyldendal 2000.
[2] See Christian Norberg-Schulz: Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture, Academy Editions, 1980.
[3] The concept bourgeois public sphere is defined in the Danish Encyclopedia as follows: “As a sociological term public sphere or bourgeois public sphere is viewed as a social and cultural context within which citizens in a bourgeois, liberal society exchange ideas, evaluations and criticism related to common concerns.” See also Jürgen Habermas: Borgerlig ofentlighed, Informations Forlag, Copenhagen 2009.
[4] See also Boris Brorman Jensen: Dubai – Dynamics of Bingo Urbanism, Arkitekturforlaget B, Copenhagen 2007, p. 92.
[5] An architecture that manifests nothing but its own idiom.
[6] I can particularly recommend Peter Rowe and Stephen J. Ramos: “Planning, Prototyping, and Replication in Dubai”, in Ahmed Kanna (ed.) The Superlative City B Dubai and the Urban Condition in the Early Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 2013, pp. 19-33.
[7] “Dubai likes to set records, which is why Guinness World Records is opening an office in the city”. See gulfbusiness.com.
[8] Here in the sense of generic modernism. The concept was originally introduced by Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock in the book The International Style, which followed on the heels of MoMA’s exhibition on modern architecture in 1932.
[9] The best representative of this genre is probably Mike Davis: “Sand, Fear and Money in Dubai” in Davis & Bertrand Monk (eds.) Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism B Evil Paradises, The New Press, NY, 2007 pp. 48B68.
[10] Op. cit. p. 68.
[11] Rem Koolhaas: “Singapore Songlines B Portrait of a Potemkin Metropolis ... or Thirty Years of Tabula Rasa”, in Koolhaas & Mau (eds.) S,M,L,XL, The Monacelli Press, NY 1995, p. 1013.
[12] “Le canard inqiétant” from 1959.
[13] See OMA. The project is incidentally a variation on the same theme as the Ras Al Khaimah Convention Centre.
[14] “With open borders, multiethnic society and freewheeling business rules, the Emirates remains vital to al-Qaeda operations,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, a Washington-based terrorism researcher. Dubai still “plays a key role for al-Qaeda as a through-point and a money transfer location,” Kohlmann said, although he also noted the country could be working to combat such activity with “an aggressive but low-profile intelligence strategy.” Al-Qaeda isn’t the only organiza- tion that has found Dubai useful. The father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has acknowledged heading a clan- destine group that, with the help of a Dubai company, supplied Pakistani nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.” Cf. USA Today.