Khan, Hasan-Uddin. "Because We Can: Globalization and Technology Enabling Iconic Architectural Excesses." In International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 7, Number 1 (pp. 5-26) , edited by Mohammad Gharipour, Bristol: Intellect, 2018.
If architecture is an expression of culture, its manifestations tell us something about ourselves, our aspirations, and our desires. But nothing is ever straightforward. Of course, not all architecture was nor is rooted to the land – traditionally some of it expressed the values of the ruling class, be it the grand mosques as expressions of piety or the palaces or corporate office buildings as symbols of power. Iconic images and visual extravagances have always been part of the landscape, from the Taj Mahal to Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp to Gehry’s attention-seeking Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. Iconic building has always been part of the visual landscape of the city. And many recent global developments have been enabled and abetted by the consumerist ‘transnational capitalist class’ (TCC). In this process, developers and architects have played a significant role in visualizing the new buildings and cities that serve the TCC. One could argue that in the era of globalization, the relationship between urban economy and urban design seems to be reversed. Urban design has undertaken an enhanced new role as a means of economic development and it is the search for architectural icons that drives the process of architectural design in globalizing cities. The focus on image has reached great heights, abetted by innovations in technology. What has come to be known as the ‘Dubai Effect’ became prevalent at the beginning of the twenty-first century: the need to attract and to create a brand. Architectural publications pander to the new slickness in presenting unusual and visually arresting buildings regardless of their suitability. These increasingly attention-grabbing buildings are forming our perception of the built environment in a cacophony of visual expressions, which makes one wonder in what direction architectural reform is heading.