• Showpiece City: How Architecture Made Dubai
    Todd Reisz
    Stanford University Press, 2020
    Todd Reisz

John Harris, Dubai World Trade Center nears completion, 1978, United Arab Emirates. Courtesy of the John R. Harris Library, Dubai. Photo: Gordon Heald.

Architecture provides the lens through which to examine Dubai and its emergence as one of the world’s most talked-about cities. It also bears the evidence that the city, far from being a gross aberration, grew according to prescribed rules of modernization. Enriched by an abundant catalogue of unpublished photographs, exclusive interviews, and archival documents, the book elucidates Dubai’s modernization from the mid-1950s until 1979. The main protagonist is British architect John Harris who–working alongside engineers, diplomats, and financiers–delivered key architectural projects, including the city’s first master plan and skyscraper. Harris’s designs for Dubai anchor the book's examination of how architecture interfaced with such urban-scale topics as hygiene, global migration, international standards, and business-class comfort. Pursued amidst constant pitch-making and deal-brokering for Dubai, architecture, through it all, emerges as a tactic of both calculated compromise and firm persistence.

Todd Reisz lives in Amsterdam and is an architect and writer. His work has been featured in The Guardian, Architectural Design, Artforum, Log, Jadaliyya, Journal of Urban History, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume, and ARCH+. He has taught architectural and urban design at Yale University and Harvard University.