Like how we recognize a car by its lines, we recognize a city by its skyline. Of the many things 9/11 changed, one of the most visible was the way it re-drew New York city's skyline.
Not every city is New York, however, a city shaped by centuries of rich history and heavy usage.
With different economic booms occurring around the world, cities are trying to define, or redefine their identities, often starting with their skyline.
Shenzen is a city located across the boarder from Hong Kong in China. In 1978, it had a population of 20 000 people. Today, there are approximately 8.3 million people living there. In 30 years, it is an understatement to say it has redefined itself.
(Note: not actually Shenzen pre-1978) source: http://ieas.berkeley.edu/images/gas/Woo_Fishing_Village.jpg
Like how we notice a Lamborghini and not so much a KIA, some skylines are forgettable. (sorry Dallas)
Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas wishes to blend the mundane with the extraordinary in what is perhaps the world's most changing skyline, Dubai. He wishes to cure cities of what is called the "Bilbao syndrome" (probably a reference to the Spanish city, home to a branch of the Guggenheim museum, note the beginning of "Tomorrow Never Dies" ), which he says "reduces cities to theme parks of architectural tchotchkes that mask an underlying homogeneity."On the other hand, he does not condone the generic functionality that is Dallas (above). Instead he wishes to establish a city that integrates both. "The monotony is broken by mixed-use structures whose immense scale and formal energy draw on mythic examples from architectural history" he suggests. The plan is to create Koolhaas' vision of the 21st century metropolis on a square island on Dubai's waterfront.
Especially in a country with such an extreme dichotomy between the rich and poor, Koolhaas realizes the need to avoid any inkling of a "gated community" or "lofty elite", "a miniaturized version of a city of glittering towers built for the global elite, barricaded against the urban poor and its makeshift shantytowns."
Koolhaas' wishes to achieve this through providing many connections from his island to the mainland in the form of bridges and a connection to the transit system. In doing this, he wishes to create the illusion of integration between his island and the rest of the city.
I am skeptical of his success, as in my head I conjure images of the inner city portrayed in Batman Begin's version of the 21st century metropolis. Here, the bridges and transit system serve as a way to shuttle in and sever all ties with the undesirable parts of society. (until, of course, batman saves the day) With even the greatest cities still suffering their own poor-rich divides (New York for instance, where one of the richest and one of the poorest neighborhoods in America are both found on the same street (5th ave) ), I do not see Dubai avoiding this problem either.
Pretty skyline, impossible dreams.
Sources of quotations and pic: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/03/arts/design/03kool.html?pagewanted=1