Lucrative gains from annual religious pilgrimage has the Saudi Ministry of Finance clamoring to build the world’s largest hotel in the desert of Mecca, featuring 10,000 guest rooms, four helipads, and 12 tightly clustered towers on a 10-story plinth. Crowned at its summit by one of the largest domes in the world, the $3.6 billion mega-hotel has five off-limits floors earmarked for Saudi royalty, 70 restaurants, and an entire multi-function commercial space at its base for a shopping mall, food courts, a bus station, conference center and a lavishly appointed ballroom. Construction conglomerate Dar Al-Handasah designed the mammoth edifice to model a “traditional desert fortress,” sporting flourishes such as fluted pink pilasters framing arched blue-mirrored windows. The two towers within the dome will rise up 45 storeys above the Mecca desert, while two more towers will attain 35 floors, with the remaining eight towers at 30 storeys tall. London-based interior design firm Areen Hospitality has signed on to appoint the interior spaces in the palatial luxury typical of the region. While deep pockets are an unspoken mandate, guests can choose between four and five-star luxury accommodations. The hotel occupies a 646,000-square-foot site in the Manafi district, and is less than one mile south of the Grand Mosque, thronged by two million pilgrims per year and currently undergoing a $61 billion expansion to accommodate seven million worshippers by 2040. The world’s largest hotel by number of hotel rooms, soon to be dwarfed by the Abraj Kudai, is the MGM Grand Las Vegas at 6,198 guestrooms. The gargantuan construction, opening in 2017, is the latest in a spate of residential and commercial developments galvanized by rising tourism revenue, currently raking in more than $9.2 billion annually. An example is the Jabal Omar development along the western edge of Mecca, which will accommodate nearly 100,000 people in 26 luxury hotels, as well as a six-story prayer hall. “The city is turning into Meca-hattan” Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Guardian. “Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out.”
Posts tagged with "Ugly Buildings":
If a billionaire New Jersey investor gets his way, it will be a lot harder for lazy headline writers to call Jersey City the “New Brooklyn.” That's because wealthy person Paul Fireman wants to bestow upon the city a very non-artisanal $4 billion sky-scraping casino and resort complex. The Wall Street Journal reported that the massive project includes a "90-story hotel, 14 restaurants, a theater and a complex of pools on a 200-acre site.” It is being called "Liberty Rising," which sounds more like a Hollywood blockbuster or covert military operation than a mixed-use development, but, hey, what can you do. For "Liberty Rising" to actually, well, rise, New Jersey lawmakers will need to pass a referendum to expand gambling into the northern part of the state. The Journal reported that Garden State lawmakers are split on when to bring up the referendum, and how new gambling revenue would be spent. It seems that a portion of the revenue would go toward boosting Atlantic City's tourist economy. (This would be a good time to mention that at the end of last summer four of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos had closed, costing 8,000 people their jobs. ) If New Jersey voters ultimately vote in favor of the plan, then Liberty Rising, and other projects like it, could take shape just outside of New York City. This specific project was designed by the Las Vegas–based Friedmutter Group Architects and, expectedly, has a Las Vegas vibe going for it. The complex rises from a multi-tiered podium that is topped with waterfalls, pools, and green space. Below, there's a place to park your yacht. Along one of the two glass towers appears to be landscape terraces that jut out of the main structure. Liberty Rising is obviously a massive project, but just one of the many new developments reshaping Jersey City. As AN reported last year, the city is taking advantage of its close proximity to Manhattan and trying to entice New Yorkers being priced out of the five boroughs with new residential buildings—many of them rising to supertall heights.
The days of China as a staging ground for progressive, even experimental, architecture may be numbered. High-profile projects by Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, et al, while the delight of design aficionados around the world, haven't impressed Chinese President Xi Jinping—at least in a positive way. At a symposium on the arts held in Beijing at the end of last year, he made statements to the effect that "weird" buildings—an adjective that has not yet been codified—would not be welcome in the future. Government intrusion into architectural aesthetics is not, of course, without ugly precedent. Joseph Stalin—who was called "the father and friend of all Soviet architects" at the All-Union Congress in 1946—essentially conscripted architects to work for the state, forcing them to close their practices to deliver structures like the Seven Sisters, fortress-like buildings topped with Gothic-ish towers. (Un-fun fact: The project manager for these buildings was a KGB honcho, and the construction crews were composed of POWs and political prisoners.) Mies van der Rohe, in an act of cunning integrity, convinced the Third Reich of the importance of keeping the Bauhaus open, only to close the school himself in a statement of artistic principle. We wonder who among the contemporary architectural community might take such a stand—should the need arise—with regard to China.
NORBERT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING Two issues ago, we brought your attention to a lawsuit in which Reed Construction Data accuses the McGraw-Hill Construction Group of industrial espionage, mail fraud, and racketeering. Norbert Young, president of the construction group, which includes Architectural Record, was mentioned twice as the alleged spy supervisor. Since then, an internal memorandum on November 9 seems damning in its terseness: “I wanted to inform you that Norbert Young has left The McGraw-Hill Companies.” That’s it. No reason given, no thank you for years of service—just the name of the person-in-charge-for-now and a boilerplate pledge to sound leadership and innovation. Cold. THE POPE AND THE ARCHITECTS The Catholic Church works in mysterious ways. One day it’s condemning, the next embracing. Eavesdrop’s eyebrow arched upon seeing that Pope Benedict XVI had invited 500 artists, architects, musicians, film directors, and one Italian prima ballerina to meet him for a “dialogue”—the Pope did all the talking—between the Catholic church and the arts. Half of the 500 mostly Italian invitees accepted, and among the blessed were Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Mario Botta, Santiago Calatrava, and David Chipperfield. It gets stranger. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the director of the Pontifical Council for Culture, organized the event as “the first of many initiatives to bridge the widening gap between spirituality and artistic expression.” At a news conference, he proclaimed that this gap is evident in the art and architecture of many modern churches, which he said “do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.” Then *Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, cast more stones at modern architecture by adding, “Nowadays, many people live in the dreary outskirts of cities in ugly houses. They go to church, and it’s uglier still!” Eavesdrop begs his pardon and stammers that we didn’t come all the way to the Sistine Chapel to be insulted. Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, and Richard Meier have built Catholic churches recently. Surely they are among those Ravasi acknowledged at the press conference as having pleased their parishioners. Or perhaps this backhanded compliment was aimed right at ’em: “Great modern architects do not want interference with the purity of their buildings.” GOT THE UGLIES Let Curbed.com and Vanity Fair anoint the Best; VirtualTourist.com has gone rogue with its second annual list of the “World’s Top 10 Ugly Buildings.” Only two U.S. structures made the cut: John Johansen’s 1967 Mechanics Theater in Baltimore and Haigh Jamgochian’s 1962 crumpled Markel Building in Richmond. And Yes, Virginia, Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum addition made the list, too.