‘Iconic’ architecture on the decline in the UAE

The Dubai International Financial Centre

Professionals in the architecture field are lauding the decline in the use of the word ‘iconic’ to describe architecture in Dubai, saying describing projects in that manner are done to attract attention.

While discussing the topic, ‘Towards sustainable building practices – can architecture make a difference?’, Sherif Anis, regional director, CBT Architects and secretary, AIA MIddle East, UAE, said he prefers to steer away from the word ‘icon’, since he thinks it has been overused.

Referring to when the word featured “a hundred times” in competitions in the earlier part of the century, Anis said he doesn’t see that term used anymore and thinks it “is probably a good thing.”


Agreeing with this was Kyle Krall, senior principal, Thornton Tomasetti, UAE, who said: “The word ‘iconic’ is not being used anymore because it doesn’t mean anything here. It just used to mean the craziest building that is recognised.”

Anis backed this up: “I think a lot of successful projects that people consider iconic are really just a design to attract attention and done by an interesting architectural firm. However, it is nice to see those kinds of things here because it definitely puts Dubai on the map in terms of a world-class status.”

Anis added there are fantastic examples of good projects that have created sustainable, public projects, which are not recognised as being iconic, but should be in terms of their success as a project.

He said Dubai is not a very walkable city in general compared to Abu Dhabi but that “there certainly are some very fantastic public spaces.”

Krall said DIFC is just a hub that is sustainable on its own, and Abu Dhabi is starting to develop those type of places.

“I’m excited to see what will come out of Sowwah Square, as a business hub where people are going to congregate and hopefully live nearby, maybe even walk to work, and go on the metro,” he added.

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