March 25, 2010 | Maryam Eskandari
Somewhere in the heat of the desert, the kings and princes of Saudi are singing to themselves “ if you can do anything I can do better, I can do anything better than you…” obviously in Arabic to be exact and pointing the finger at Dubai. Earlier this year, it became official that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has signed a new contract with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. Four years ago, both Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill were former employees of Skidmore Owing and Merrill Architects (SOM), and while working for SOM they designed the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It seems that Saudi Arabia knows who to call and does not really have to go far when searching for the best of the best in architects.
Even though Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture have yet to complete and sign the contract with Saudi Arabia all the excitement and hype has been already begun circulating around them. While they have yet to confirm any reports regarding this project, all this hype got me thinking that as architects, we definitely owe it to the Middle East to allow us to become “Stararchitects”. Yes, it is true that way back in the 8th century when the Middle East was being developed and re-developed, the tallest “towers” were the minarets, and the architects were not even given any credit. However, the extreme financial support that comes out of these wealthy countries now allows the architects to push boundaries in both technology and design. And thanks to the Middle East, every architect has a voluptuous budget to play with and the potential to design anything that they aspire without a budget constraint. With such designs, young firms are immediately put on the map and other potential project follow.
The Chicago based architects of Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill were selected by the developing company -Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company- to build the Kingdom Tower skyscraper in Jeddeh, Saudi Arabia which has been proposed to be reach over a height of one mile or 5,281 feet (1,600m) and is to house a hotel, offices and high end residential. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, designed by Skidmore Owing and Merrill, which was recently opened on Jan 4, stands at 2,717 feet tall and is currently the tallest building in the world.
Let me put this in perspective for you: the newly built City Center in Las Vegas was a combination of six architects, five building and cost about $8billion. A “simple” project such as the Kingdom Tower can help the architecture economical crises out, and has the potential to perhaps house some of the young graduates to have the opportunity to work on a grand scale project and dream the same dreams that Smith and Gill once had. I mean, when one thinks about what the possibilities of a budget such as $10 billion dollars has the potential of doing, besides rebuilding Haiti, is phenomenal. All I can think about is what kind of design I would create that would resonate in the desert and would be worth $10 billion. I think the pressure is on for Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and I have yet to figure out if I would want to be in their shoes with a project like this, or bail.