‘We’ll be building in the air soon,’ says JT+Partners’ Joe Tabet

In 10 years, I see Dubai building in the air. I mean, look at what’s happened to Dubai in the last 15 years. If we stick to this rhythm and direction then we can achieve anything. Really, if you have the vision and the will, then they sky is quite literally the limit. Dubai has already built under water, on top of water, they’re building rotating towers now. The vision is to always raise the bar.

Sometimes I’m reminded of the movie ‘The Fifth Element’. It came out 10 years ago and we saw the flying cars, and we thought ‘that’s the future’. And now BMW is testing flying cars and the RTA has the flying taxi. So really, I guess the future is here.

And how is that going to affect the development on an urban level? Design is going to be in the fourth dimension. We’re building on an x and y grid, but soon there will be a z element. All of these vertical cities that we’re hearing about, well I believe we’ll actually start seeing them after 10 years – probably much later than that – but Dubai will be planning for this reality, and we will be master planning future cities built outside of the box.

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It might sound crazy, but since the 1970s, there have been numerous cases that show just how fearless the country is in terms of development. Think about the water canal – we read about it eight years ago and said, ‘That’s not going to happen’, and then it happened. And then we heard about the new tower by Calatrava and said, ‘That’s not going to happen’, and then it did happen.

But with all this said, we need to be careful. We have to keep an eye on how this growth affects the population’s social life. Right now we’re seeing a lot of ‘emotional growth’. Nakheel develops one area and Emaar develops another area, so development is happening in isolation. There needs to be a general master plan for the city because the development of the future is going to be way more chaotic and way more aggressive, so starting from now, we need to be much more organised.

So, technology and transportation are rapidly changing and they’re going to affect the way we organise our cities. As architects, when we master plan we’re defining how people are going to live together. If I build a highway, it will define how people get to work, school or home. We’re defining the people’s lifestyle. And this lifestyle is only going to become more integrated and more complicated, and we’ll need to ensure that how we build the future is able to support and enhance that.

This piece was written by Joe Tabet, managing director of JT+Partners, as part of Middle East Architect’s ‘Dubai: The Next Decade’ series. 

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