Another Side of Islam

The global revival of Islam is more than just jihadi terrorists. The other facet is untold oil wealth, which translates into power. Yes, the jidhadists despise the authoritarian sheiks, but the scale of the latter’s riches is staggering. Read this about the emirate of Dubai. Then go here for a slide show of its grandiose, opulent, and rather creepy architecture, including plans for the world’s tallest building, all designed by the world’s most cutting-edge postmodernist architects and built on the backs of indentured servants from Asia.

You can tell a lot about a person or a culture by the art they use to express themselves. What can you deduce about today’s Islamic civilization from their architecture? Here is a sample of what a planned development will look like:

The Dubai Towers

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organshoes

    Flames? Daggers? Spikes?
    Too many twisted towers.
    Nightmarish and utterly Tolkien-esque.

  • WebMonk

    What??? Those are the most awesome looking towers ever! I’ve always been a closet fan of adventure sci-fi, and those buildings are exactly the sort of thing I imagine in some of the futuristic cities where they have super-materials and gravity nullifiers, so they don’t have to stick to traditional building shapes.

    I guess they appeal to my inner I-want-a-flying-car child. :^)

    What can I tell about Islamic culture from those buildings? For one, they’ve got the money to build the types of buildings a lot of people here in the US want to build – buildings that are a lot more imaginative than the straight-up, square, pointy towers in most cities here.

  • Bror Erickson

    I’m sure when the sun hits those towers just right it reminds them of their future home…..
    The rest of the time it looks like the set for the next Star Wars movie.

  • http://www.pagantolutheran.blogspot.com Bruce

    “if you’ve got all that money, make sure it shows”, as the saying goes. Heaven on earth, and–what, 60%? of the world’s tallest cranes to make it so.
    The most interestng projected Dubai building (going by memory here) is the Italian-designed rotating garden that is many, many stories high. It is fantasy-like.
    I always wonder how these structures will hold up and appear in ten or twenty years. Wander too far from what has historically worked, and usually you have a short-lived architectural phenomenom. In a generation, the whole thing will look silly. And someone in Seoul or Quito will be building the Next Great Thing.
    Is any of what you see in Dubai grounded in their theology or core values or history? I think what we are seeing is modernism for modernism’s sake.

  • mommy

    I remember a few months ago, my well-read son telling me that more than half of the construction cranes in the world are in one city – Dubai.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    I’m with Bruce (@4). Dubai’s going to wake up with a hangover in a few decades and ask, “Why, oh why, did I ever build that? And that? And that?!” There’s no guiding principle other than “zanier than what the last guy came up with”. There’s just too much money flowing for anyone to consider utility or taste or anything. It’s an architectural version of Hollywood (clothing) fashion.

    That said, I still must admit to occasionally being awfully impressed by it all. Not admiring it, just impressed by it.

  • tim prussic

    tODD maybe right about the hangover. I’m just pleased as punch to have buildings like that somewhere to go visit. I’m not quite so sure I’d want them in Seattle, but then again… I think they’re pretty sweet looking… a whole lot better then EMP in Seattle, which looks like it was recycled (maybe that was the point).

  • Doug

    For whatever ridiculous reason I immediately though, “they look like horns…from a beast…spoken of in Revelation…” Oh my. The Revelation obsession here in the states is rubbing off on me. Just wait until Jack Van Impe gets a look at those towers. I wonder if their street address will be 666? :) (Please read this with full sarcasm. I am just kidding.)

    Personally, I love the Victorian era of architecture. Buildings like that just don’t set well with me.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Robert Perry

    When I saw it, my first thought was “they like to pay ironworkers a LOT to do extremely complicated designs.” :^)

    (I wonder how many Iroquois/Mohawk ironworkers are in Dubai now, or if the era of high flying Indian ironwork is over….)

    Having grown up around Chicago & Wright’s work, I “should” really love big buildings, but as I grow older, I realize that they are a really expensive way of making space, excellent terrorism targets, and also are a great way of making the existing street grid insufficient for getting from point A to point B–or disrupting it entirely, as was the case with the World Trade Center.

    It’s time to stop using public money to build them, methinks.

  • Don, the Rebel without a Blog

    I thought Salvador Dali was dead.

  • Michael the little boot

    Hmmm. It’s troubling to me that you describe the architecture as creepy. Seems to beg the question: are there any shapes that are inherently bad/negative? It would seem you are imposing your own thoughts and feelings about the shapes onto these buildings. No question that all the power and wealth in this area of our planet scares me, though!

  • CRB

    For some reason I think of Genesis 3:1!!


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