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Dubai: Wonder of the World in Crisis

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Harald Bodenschatz

Hotel Atlantis in Dubai<br>&copy; Harald BodenschatzThe turbo pace of urban design in Dubai has slackened since autumn 2008. Real estate business is grinding to a halt. Foreign construction workers and experts are losing their jobs. The flaws of the social and economic Über-Orient are being exposed through the crisis.

After years of continuing reports from Dubai on architectural records being broken and new wonders of the world being built, the Western news media now rushes to announce the failure of a hypertrophic urban vision. The New York Times sees Dubai’s economy “in free fall” (02.12.2009), the Guardian speaks of a crisis of the “shrine to unbridled capitalism” (02.13.2009) and the Independent looks behind “the dark side of Dubai”  (04.02.2009).

The German-speaking press also was quick to proclaim Dubai’s imminent demise, for example, the Berliner Tagesspiegel, on the occasion of an exhibition of the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Künste [New Society for Fine Arts] on social exclusion, called Dubai an “image without content” (03.22.2009), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung proclaimed a “flight from paradise” (05.02.2009), and the Stern commented, “Dubai tightens its belt” (05.13.2009). Haven’t we always suspected this would happen?

The model of Dubai is yesterday’s news, the bubble Dubai has burst. The moment of the crash can be  determined precisely: September 2008. After this moment the constant increase in real estate prices collapsed. Whoever reads sources about Dubai from before and after September 2008 feels he has to rub his eyes in disbelief: Are we really talking about the same city? The bright language about a permanently accelerating record and project spiral abruptly fell silent. Is the mocking discourse of failure now, however, not as premature as the blind exultation of the fairy tale city before?


This is the english version of an article which has been published in the Bauwelt, issue 23/2009. Translation: Sasha Disko.
Hotel Atlantis in Dubai. Copyright: Harald Bodenschatz