Building a better Dubai

Youngsters in Dubai present their vision for the future skyscrapers of the emirate.

Last month saw a unique opportunity for Dubai’s budding young architects to develop and showcase their ideas at the Third Line Gallery – and amazingly, considering where we live, it didn’t turn into a competition to see who could draw the tallest tower.

Organised by Bidoun, an art magazine, and START, a charity that brings the arts to disadvantaged and special needs children, the event aimed to get kids aged 12 and under thinking about what they could contribute to the ever-diversifying Dubai skyline.

‘I think if we did this competition in London, people would just draw square houses, whereas in this workshop there are towers with fish swimming through them,’ says Antonia Carter, editor of Bidoun. ‘A few of the children are actually saying they want to be architects when they grow up, and the fact that we’ve got professors in the subject from the American University of Sharjah on hand to talk to them about their ideas and give them advice is great,’ she continues.

So, are the finished pieces just squiggles and scribbles, or do these kids actually have the potential to redefine how we think about buildings? Antonia says, ‘Kids do have something unique to contribute because they’re not stymied by thoughts about whether the concepts will actually work.’ Amongst the entries were a wobbly building for jelly-eating people; Robo Palm, an offshore development for robots; a fluorescent-coloured abode complete with an aquarium in the attic; and a dog-shaped canine adoption centre.

Of course, this event is a drop in the ocean when it comes to encouraging children to become more creative. The organisers of Young Architects are keen to stress that if art doesn’t become an integral part of schools’ curriculums soon, and Dubai continues to develop at its current breakneck pace, there will not be enough artists and architects to meet the demand in 20 years’ time. If you’re keen to get your children involved in activities like Young Architects, Sonia Brewin, director of START, suggests that you try calling local galleries such as the Third Line (04 432 6285) or the XVA Gallery (04 353 5383).

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