The Problem with Dubai

The Dubai Sky­line: Build­ing-Gap-Build­ing-Gap-Build­ing, or S‑O-S.

A metrop­o­lis is a bound­less syn­the­sis of cities and vil­lages. It often begins life as a labyrinthine cas­tle town that evolves over time into a dense urban net­work that nev­er tru­ly reveals itself, flick­er­ing in a per­pet­u­al process of spon­ta­neous change that thrives on a high­ly errat­ic rit­u­al of destruc­tion and rebuilding.

Tokyo is such a metrop­o­lis. A city with no begin­ning and no end, it is where sto­ries are spliced togeth­er and jux­ta­posed, some­times in har­mo­ny, but more fre­quent­ly in appar­ent chaos. The Japan­ese word for space is ma, which com­bines gate mon and sun hi. The lit­er­al trans­la­tion of ma is “inter­val” or “space in between” — the light that shines through an open gate.

Ever so slow­ly, amidst the clut­ter of the metrop­o­lis emerges an immutable har­mo­ny that, like almost every­thing about Tokyo, spurns words for the silences in between: a naked urban haiku that wash­es trans­par­ent dreams over the jun­gle of con­crete, the tan­gle of time.

So we ask: In a cul­ture mor­tal­ly ter­ri­fied by empti­ness, what is the future of a city that has no space for space?

For more on Japan­ese let­ters, refer to Why I love Kan­ji on meedosite.

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