The International Design Forum saw the launch of a very interesting book today: Al Manakh. It is one of those “books” that reminds me of another Rem Koolhaas related book called Mutations, in that it is an hybrid amalgamation of articles, graphs, architectural drawings and photos, contributed by countless participants. The publication is a special edition of Volume.

Al Manakh is a unique project that looks at the contemporary urban condition in the Gulf states. Rem Koolhaas’s presentation on the first day of the Forum was based on the book. His central theme was: taking Dubai seriously as a radical urban experiment. He belittled western criticism of Dubai as a sign of critical bankruptcy.

It is particularly cruel that the harshest criticism comes from old cultures that still control the apparatus of judegement, while the epicenters of production have shifted to the other end(s) of the globe.

I was particularly intrigued by Koolhaas interest in the Gulf architecture and planning of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s of the 20th century. He considers many of the building and plans produced in the first period of development of this region as serious attempts and interesting experiments of modernity.

Al-Manakh is a pretty amazing effort that should excite/inform anyone involved in design and urban planning in the Middle East.

Read the press release here.

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