Construction Week Newsletter 30th April 2005

It’s been impossible to avoid that sense of déjà vu in the last week. The unveiling of several projects in Dubai have carried with them that feeling which says ‘I know I’ve seen that somewhere before, I just don’t know where.’

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By  Sean Cronin Published  April 30, 2005

Vegas vision: The capital of kitsch comes to Dubai|~||~||~|It’s been impossible to avoid that sense of déjà vu in the last week. The unveiling of several projects in Dubai have carried with them that feeling which says ‘I know I’ve seen that somewhere before, I just don’t know where.’ Famous landmarks from around the world, shrunk down to scale model size, maybe converted into hotels, in a desert environment — now where could I be thinking about? It started with the revelation that Dubailand will include a new ‘city’ with replicas of European architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then there was the announcement this week that Raffles, the world famous hospitality chain, will operate a US $140 million luxury hotel project to be built in the shape of a pyramid on the site of the Wafi Mall in Dubai. “Why would you build a hotel shaped like a pyramid in the UAE?” asked one local reporter at the press conference last week. The answer given was that the hotel was being built alongside the existing Wafi Mall, which already has an Egyptian theme. It was a straightforward and logical explanation, if not a terribly original one. And it didn’t help me to deduce where I had seen a pyramid-shaped hotel before. It was only after reading a report about the recent Conexpo show that it suddenly dawned on me, like a flashing neon sign with Golden Nugget written on it. I had indeed seen versions of all of these projects before . . . in Las Vegas, USA. Of course the replica Eiffel Tower has been a feature of the Las Vegas skyline for some time. It’s half-scale and you can take a lift up to the top to look at all the other replica buildings from around the world, if that’s what floats your boat. If you look hard enough you’ll probably also be able to spot the Luxor Hotel, which has its own pyramid and a sphinx thrown in for good measure — just in case any visiting tourists should be in any doubt over the theme of the building. So why is it that borrowed versions of buildings already built in the global capital of kitsch are finding a new home in Dubai and elsewhere in the region? Surely the countries of the GCC deserve more from the international developers and consultants who earn fat fees from promoting these second-hand ideas. The icing on the cake was the news that a US company had secured around US $150 million in funds to build the world’s biggest observation wheel in Dubai. The fact that this very same company had only thought about building the structure in the UAE after it had failed to launch a similar project in its home town, didn’t seem to register. And where is this company (that has never made a profit) based? Why, Las Vegas of course. How long can it be until the Elvis impersonators start parachuting into town? ||**||

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