With its 492 vertical feet of garish plated gold, the Dubai Frame is the perfect symbol of the Persian Gulf city. It’s like someone took the Grande Arche at Paris’s La Défense and removed its functionality, its elegant proportions, and its meaning–except in the sense that it frames the city’s artifice with more artifice.
The concept for the Frame was originally drafted in a much simpler and more elegant way by Mexican architect Fernando Donis–who is also responsible for other visual landmarks like China Central Television’s headquarters in Beijing, which he worked on while at OMA. Donis presented the original Frame design back in 2008 in an international competition hosted by the Emirates’ capital and the German ThyssenKrupp Elevator company.
According to Donis, the city stole his design after he won the competition against 900 other architects. In a copyright lawsuit filed in the United States in December 2016, the Mexican architect claims that Dubai made this crappy copy without compensating him or involving him in the project’s execution in any way. At the time, Donis told the New York Times that he was shocked: “The Frame is mine, and they don’t want to grant that it is mine. The infringement doesn’t just victimize me. They have taken something from all architects–the protection of our ideas.” On the other hand, Dubai claimed that the architect got the $100,000 prize and he was not supposed to be involved in the development–and eventual bastardization–of the final design.
The Dubai Frame promoters believe that 2 million people will pay $14 each to go up its elevators every year (perhaps rightly, since the Burj Khalifa is reportedly its most-visited tourist attraction) so they can walk over the glass floor of its top central segment and admire all the metal, concrete, and glass that makes up this architectural hell built by “modern-day slaves.”
Oh, and one more thing: It lights up!
Dear Fernando, I hope you get all the money in the world–and then ask the judge to order its demolition.