IMPORTING URBAN GIANTS: Re-Imaging Shanghai and Dubai with Skyscrapers

Kheir Al-Kodmany, Mir M. Ali, Tingwei Zhang



Shanghai and Dubai have recently marked a new epoch in the history of skyscrapers. Through the examination of these two cities, this paper attempts to identify the key driving  forces for constructing skyscrapers in newly emerging global cities. The findings indicate that in addition to economic factors, globalization, political support, tourism, branding, openness to Western culture are the primary drivers that spurred the proliferation of skyscrapers in  Shanghai and Dubai. While globalization has facilitated the spread of homogeneity and standardized architectural practices, it has also simultaneously pushed star architects to create unique architecture as exemplified by some of the iconic skyscrapers in Shanghai and  Dubai. Moreover, these two cities are compared and criticized for using skyscrapers as a means to attain international stature and to enhance global imageability at the expense of environmental well-being and quality of life. The paper recommends embracing a “glocal” approach that strikes a b lance between the local needs and global forces so that a distinct  local identity is ensured while global forces are addressed.


Globalization, architecture, skyscraper, place identity, culture

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