The World, by OMA

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

OMA has allowed Eikongraphia to publish these images of the concept design of a Convention and Exhibition Center in Ras Al-Khaimah, in the northern part of the United Arab Emirates.

The project is integrated in a proposal for a whole new city in the area, which takes the form of a rectangular ‘walled’, almost Assyrian city. (Just as the city just proposed by Foster in Abu Dhabi, in the south of the UAE).

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

The mixed-use project designed by OMA features convention and exhibition facilities, hotels, offices, dwellings, shops and restaurants. The statement on the website of OMA reads like the one of the CCTV Building in Beijing:

What is left to be invented when it comes to the creation of a landmark?

So far the 21st century – in a desperate effort to differentiate one building from the next – has been characterized by a manic production of extravagant shapes. Paradoxically, the result is a surprisingly monotonous urban substance, where any attempt at ‘difference’ is instantly neutralized in a sea of meaningless architectural gestures.

RAK is confronted with an important choice: Does it join so many others in this mad, futile race or does it become the first to offer a new credibility?

This project represents a final attempt at distinction through architecture: not through the creation of the next bizarre image, but through a return to pure form.

Invented long ago, both the sphere and the bar explicitly abandon claims to formal invention or ‘originality’. (The sphere even existed before man itself…) Yet both geometries still continue to feed the architectural imagination: perfectly autonomous shapes, within their bounds the promise of a perfect world – made possible only by the seamless integration of engineering.

In spite of their apparent simplicity the sphere and the bar could come to represent a milestone in the construction of the new RAK and provide it with a powerful universal symbol: Western and Eastern, futuristic and primordial, contemporary and timeless.

The paradox is obviously that, just as with the CCTV Building, the proposed form is dramatically iconic. The mind can only think positive: Don’t think about cigarettes when you try to quit. Don’t even start about form when you try to avoid it.

The Earth (Photo: NASA)
The Earth (Photo: NASA)

An interior that takes the form of a sphere can be considered as a minimalist approach, as elaborated in ‘The Endgame of Minimalism’ here on Eikongraphia. The sphere as an exterior form however, is absolutely iconographic. No doubt about that.

It already starts with the fact that OMA themselves named one of the images ‘Deathstar’, after the space city in the film series Star Wars. Not a positive metaphor to start with, I would say.

Star Wars - Deathstar
Star Wars - Deathstar

The problems only increase from here. The ‘primordial’ metaphor of the ‘earth’ as OMA proposes doesn’t exist as everybody thought back then that the world was flat. Talking about a giant grain of sand would even make more sense.

The only possible ‘minimalist’ reference here would be if the building represented a singular point. Or one pixel. But the lines and wholes in the design resent that reference.

A globe doesn’t represent ‘nothing’ or ‘almost nothing’, as with Minimalism, but the exact opposite. The world is everything, all. It’s complete.

As a metaphor, being complete is a perfect one for a building, especially when featuring all these functions. In the case of Rem Koolhaas, we already saw a design for a ‘skyscraper’ that reflected ‘the world in his book ‘Delirious New York’. That building was never built because of a major fraud of its developer. When the world becomes a bubble, it might just pop.

Curiously the circular road around ‘the earth’ makes the circling cars appear like orbiting moons.

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

Architecture blog Gravestmor suggests that the design looks like a Panasonic radio. A nice reference, but I don’t think this particular design has become general knowledge, so we cannot regard this as ‘iconography’ as there is no ‘icon’ involved here.

Panasonic - Panapet Radio
Panasonic - Panapet Radio

This is already more the case when considering a bowling ball. Not a nice reference either, as the program not even includes bowling tracks.

It just gets worse when considering that Dubai already has a bigger ‘world’ – an island agglomeration shaped like the flat representation of the 3-d earth.

More intriguing is the interior form of the ‘globe’. The holes in the perimeter of the building become ocular elements, pointing back to for instance the Pantheon in Rome.

The direction of the framed views reminded me of the deep and narrow viewing cones archeologists found in the pyramids that centuries ago aligned with stars. By now space has shifted a bit from the perspective of the earth.

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
OMA - Convention and Exhibition Center, Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE (Copyright OMA)

Related OMA: TVCC, Gazprom, Beijing Books Building, Science Center Hamburg.

Related Dubai: Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel-Ali, Palm Deira, The World, The Poem, Burj Al Arab, Chelsea Building, Iris Bay, Ipad, Black City, White City.

The project is added to the Architects and Representation pages.


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