Analysis

A little magic

Melanie Mingas wonders if Dubai’s construction market can sustain the big projects being announced

A to scale model of the new version of JBR, as seen at Cityscape 2012.

Around two weeks ago Construction Machinery editor Stephen White received a gift; a collection of miniature bobcats, diggers and cranes that distracted not only Stephen, online editor Gavin and myself, but most of the people who sit around us, too.

The inner child in us all was happy. Very happy. The collection grew to include USB sticks shaped like a miniature lifeguard and a miniature chicken, a ‘Dead Fred’ rubber doll that is also a pen holder, a ceramic camel and a model of Blackpool Tower. We began to refer to it as ‘The Farm’ and I’m please to say it is still growing.

While The Farm conjured memories of my childhood love for Lego and model villages, it also marked the start of a theme for all things tiny that reached a pinnacle of sorts when I visited Cityscape Global this week.

Billed by organisers as “the busiest Cityscape in four years”, ironically the first thing you notice is that the show itself is tiny this year, at only three days long and two halls wide.

Hosting a reduced selection of Dubai’s most resilient developers and real estate brands, including Nakheel, Emaar, Bloom, DAMAC, Deyaar, DPG, Meydan and Meeras, the miniatures were fantastically detailed. Inside were tiny people frozen in walking poses in a magical fantasy lands that, apparently, will soon pop up along The Walk at JBR, the coast of Jumeirah 2 and on Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen and Saadiyat islands.

The developments on show included a mega-mall development on JBR beach, two new shiny skyscrapers a little further along the same stretch of beach; and a new reclamation project that itself will feature a harbour, hotel and residential area. Emaar is still wheeling out its mini Burj Khalifa, too.

I know I’m not alone in my love for a good miniature – the picture of Falcon City of ‘Wonders’ that I messaged to a friend was responded to with the words: “I wish I could shrink so I could run around it”. Which to be fair is probably more realistic than staying at full human size and waiting for the real thing to materialise.

I have absolutely no doubt that Falcon City will be home to a giant $1bn Taj Mahal by 2014, as announced this week. What I do doubt is that there will be a road to take you there, or anything else to see nearby.

The madness continued after hours too. On the evening of October 3, Turkish developer Agaoglu hosted what can only be described as a five star project launch – in direct competition with the Cityscape awards where Turkey featured as a “country of honour” – for the largest residential project in both Europe and the Middle East, Maslak 1453.

Attended by no fewer than 600 people, including more than 30 Turkish media flown over specially for the event, what was a gala dinner and cinema evening was rounded off with a full blown pop concert performed by Turkish “superstar” Tarkan.

On the afternoon of the exhibition’s final day, back in the relative haven of Big Project HQ, the overwhelming feeling I am left with is one that none of this is real. The model makers have clearly been busy, but where are the construction opportunities and the investors? And how many more unrealistic, albeit fantastically ambitious, projects will be ‘justified’ by the fact that half the region’s population is under 30?

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