November 13, 2012

Greetings from?

© Milos Zivkovic

“All Generic Cities issue from the tabula rasa; if there was nothing, now they are there; if there was something, they have replaced it. They must, otherwise they would be historic” ~Koolhaas

People are rooted in time, whether they accept it or not. Who is the Generic City home to, then? To whom does the Generic City belong? Who belongs to the Generic City? A city without identity is also inherently without people – people bring with them history and culture, and though the Generic City may contain that of the present, it contains only that of the present. Obviously the Generic City is an idealistic argument and would certainly alleviate a variety of unsavory urban conditions – but in reality, it is unrelatable, distant, and belongs to no one. No resident of any city identifies completely with his airport – and doesn’t expect to. But in terms of an entire city, any identity is better than none.

It has been a little over a decade since Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas unleashed his concept of “the generic city,” a sprawling metropolis of repetitive buildings centered on an airport and inhabited by a tribe of global nomads with few local loyalties. His argument was that in its profound sameness, the generic city was a more accurate reflection of contemporary urban reality than nostalgic visions of New York or Paris.

Perhaps Dubai was the inevitable place for the realization of Koolhaas’ ideas. It is the capital of an economic and political New World Order. A city-state without income taxes, labor laws, or elections, it is ruled by a corporate oligarchy of hereditary rulers, accountable only to themselves and their investors.

Built up rapidly over the past few years on the wealth gotten from the world’s need for oil—and more recently as an unregulated sanctuary for cash—it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate Utopia.

Quite a model for our global future.