Corporate Utopias

1) Falcon City of Wonders

2008, 7 mins., United Arab Emirates
Produced by Falconcity LLC
Digital Promotion Film (www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6dnyGv0TVY)

The Falcon City of Wonders in Dubai is one of the urban components of the ambitious doubling of Dubai, already the largest city of the United Arab Emirates, by creating a megalopolis that will be built from scratch on the coast of the Persian Sea, or more precisely, built from sand, as the new entities are all man-made islands almost all of which will be connected to the mainland by causeways.

The Falcon City combines a residential city with an ambitious resort consisting of almost full-size replicas of the major wonders of the world past and present: the Great Pyramid, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China … there seems to be no end to the list of these wonders, all of which visitors may either live in or visit. The name of the city derives from the Middle Eastern culture of falcon-hunting and in fact the structure of the man-made lagoons and peninsulae create a falcon shape visible when flying over the city.

The complex in Dubailand will have in effect most of the defining features of the megalopolis, including a workers’ city—with migratory labor almost exclusively —discretely out of view of the more grandiose and visionary buildings and enclaves. Thus there are

The sheiks and other members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates have become wealthy beyond belief because they lead the financial center of the Middle East as well as acquiring large holdings of real estate throughout the world. Their keynote industry is shipping, not oil. Financially they are more Swiss than American, although they do have the equivalent of Wall Street.

The video highlights only the Falcon City; the Eikongraphia website, on the other hand, offers architectural renderings of some of the most daring buildings of all time for the other locales. There are at least seven complexes under contract or being built: three are palm-shaped residential islands, two are hotel islands (one in the shape of a sail, the other a set of hotels and office buildings that are shaped like candle flames), and two others even outdo the others in conceptual daring: the World, which consists of a myriad of individual islands to be molded and outfitted as the owner sees fit (Richard Branson, Virgin Air owner, has a red London phone kiosk on his beach) and Dubai Renaissance, which has circle of skyscrapers surrounding a Rem Koolhaas building fronting on an imitation Central Park.

Palm Jebel-Ali, designed by the Dutch firm, Waterstudio, specialists in floating architectuire, includes a string of islands that are in the shape of the words from a poem by the ruling sheik, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum:

Take wisdom only from the wise,
Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey.
It takes a man of vision to write on water,
Great men rise to great challenges.

(See http://www.eikongraphia.com/?p=835)

Further Reading:

“Dubai: Wall Street in the Desert?” Business Week, 8 Oct. 2007. A review of the financial strategy of Dubai’s ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktou.

“Dubai.” Eikongraphia, 4 Oct. 2007, at http://www.eikongraphia.com/?p=1865. This on-line architectural magazine offers a complete discussion and reproductions of the drawings of all the major building proposed for the expanding Dubai megalopolis.

2) New Songdo City

2004, 4 mins., Korea, in English
Producer: Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF)
Digital Promotion Film (www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2uzo-xzta0)

Although the geographical symbolism may seem to Cold Warriors a little bold—New Songdo City will be sited on a man-made island off Inchon, Korea, adjoining the beach where General Douglas MacArthur landed with the U.S. Marines in 1950 to drive the North Koreans out of the South—the new megalopolis is a joint Korean-American venture that boasts of its western look, using New York, Sydney, and Venice, as its urban models.

New Songdo City goes beyond the CCTV model of street-wise surveillance characteristic of the contemporary metropolis to become one of the first “ubiquitous cities” or U-Cities with an extraordinary combination of monitoring and convenience technology. Based in part on the RFID (radio frequency identification) tag system that made Wal-Mart’s supply chain the envy of the globalized economy, the U City carries Wi-Fi and plastic card recognition to another level that monitors the location of every cardholder. (Every time you pay for a Wal-Mart widget, its site of origin is notified to ready its replacement.)

Although, as various critics have noted, it was perhaps inevitable that the first total surveillance megalopolis promised (or threatened) by post-apocalyptic films would be in Korea where there is “an historical expectation of less privacy” (see O’Connell in Further Reading), the filmmakers chose Sigur Ros, the Icelandic post-rock band, with a lead singer whose falsetto voice often breaks into lyrics in an imaginary language, making the new city seem like it could be part of a megalopolis in any country.

Further Reading:

Rozek
 Victor. “As I See It: The Digital Life.” The Four Hundred,
12 March 2007. At http://www.itjungle.com/tfh/tfh031207-story04.html. An in-depth and critical overview of the project: “Think of it as Korea’s version of Disney’s Tomorrow Land; a place where imagination and IT intersect, backed by a huge investment of cash. It will be clean, modern, and efficient. A place where everything is tracked, every action recorded, every service personalized, and every transaction automated.”

O’Connell, Pamela Licalzi. “Korea’s High-Tech Utopia, Where Everything Is Observed.” New York Times, 5 Oct. 2005. Discusses how New Songdo City will be the leading “ubiquitous city” in the world, “where all major information systems (residential, medical, business, governmental and the like) share data, and computers are built into the houses, streets and office buildings” and, as Anthony Townsend, a research director at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, argues, “U-city is a uniquely Korean idea” and that because there is an “historical expectation of less privacy, Korea is willing to put off the hard questions to take the early lead and set standards.”

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