Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Emerald City

Dubai's tallest block from Internet City's reflecting pool

Dubai sometimes evokes images of the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City. It has got that singular glass tower with cascading levels that rises high into the sky, standing brilliantly as the tallest manmade structure on earth. But the Burj Khalifa is not the city's only triumphant pinnacle. There are many other gleaming skyscrapers of various shapes and sizes.

In Dubai Marina, the so-called tallest block on the planet also conjures up that Emerald City image.

Internet City

In the foreground of the Emerald City towers is Dubai's Internet City, a cluster of lowrise office blocks and lakes laid out in campus-like fashion. It is built in a chic corporate manner à la business Americana--think Microsoft in Redmond Washington, Apple in Cupertino California or Infosys in Bangalore.

Tallest block from the Palm Jumeirah access bridge

The Emerald City rises majestically above the land and seascape! Turn the clock back 10 years and this highrise oasis did not yet exist. The city is not only amazing for its heights but also for its speed.

But things have slowed down post 2008 and the new normal in Dubai means growth at only twice the speed of the average city rather than 20 times.

The tallest buildings, still under construction, exceed 100 floors

Life in the tallest block is still evolving. There are a lot of new residents as some towers have recently been completed, but still many more residents are yet to come. Construction goes on on towers, road works and a new high-tech tram line.

Most residents keep cars in the big podiums at the base of each tower, but visitors and shoppers fend for space on sandy lanes and plots that surround many of the towers. Shops also are scarce but increasing with small groceries joining dry cleaners and the odd bank branch, pharmacy or cafe.

Street culture has yet to emerge in the tallest block, but nice strolls can be had in the vicinity, either along the several kilometers of bricked promenade along the Marina canal or in the neighboring, more established Media and Internet Cities' business plazas.

An Evening Stroll

So, I start my evening wondering where to go for a walk this time. My backyard, so to speak, is a forest of towers. How about the Palm Jumeirah then? On my last walk I enjoyed the breeze and greenery around Media City and Internet City's lakes.

I walk past the canyon of towers and cross the road that separates the tallest block from Media City.

Media City is very much the contrast with lowrise office blocks, lawns and a central lake feature.

The office blocks surround the lakes in courtyard fashion with parking areas discretely hidden behind rows of trees or along roadways.

The most spacious lawn fronts the Media City office blocks which sport familiar signage from media heavy weights like CNN and Reuters. The lawn is so spacious that it is used for open air concerts during cooler months.

After a 10-minute walk along the road that transects Media and Internet Cities, I reach the Dubai Pearl construction site which has a closed off ramp leading up to the bridge that crosses to the Palm Jumeirah island.

Taking this ramp I follow the crossing for another 10 minutes or so, stopping to snap pictures before reaching the other side.

Along the way I enjoy the treat of panoramic views of the Dubai Marina/JBR beach front as the Palm Jumeirah monorail makes its way slowly overhead.

It would seem that the intent was to create a pedestrian promenade here. The walkway along the bridge is wide and laid out with red bricks and it has at regular intervals observation decks which jut out over the ground below.

But the land below the bridge and the huge monorail station building consist of stalled construction sites which create an eyesore.

There is no sign of the promenade coming to life soon. After snapping photos I made my way back to Internet City to enjoy again the peaceful greenery and magnificent views of the tallest block.


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