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Title: Iconographic architecture as signs and symbols in Dubai
Author: Seth, Harpeet
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2013
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This study seeks to investigate the impact of architectural icons on the cities that they are built in, especially those in Dubai to understand the perceptions and associations of ordinary people with these icons, thus analysing their impact on the quality of life in the city. This is an important study with the advent of ‘iconism’ in architecture that has a growing acceptance and demand, wherein the status of a piece of architecture is predetermined as an icon by the media and not necessarily by the people. There is no denying that the fastest means of appearing on the world map is through icons, which Dubai evidently achieved, and there are many supporters of this phenomenon as a means of progress and development, the bonus being instant fame and status. But the symbolism employed in these icons, specifically for this part of the world, many argue may not be relevant to the people or the region, thus leading to a loss of identity and sense of belonging that is a vital component in the overall sense of pride. This study thus evaluates architecture as a service industry that is not only to satisfy the personal egos of the architects or the clients. It has an important role to leave a mark on the end users and not only on the glossy architectural journals. The study presents views on what really leaves a mark on the people’s memory, addressing the scale, the grandness, the location, the size, the technology and the materials that may or may not contribute to the iconic status of an architectural project from the people’s perspective. Further the study investigates if an icon is one that could be a forced landmark or it is one that people associate with, relate to and one that gives them the sense of belonging and pride, binding them together. The expressive iconic forms with the metaphors emerging, may or may not add to the quality of a place, create places of spaces or it may result in more of form accommodating functions.Thus it is imperative to understand that though today Dubai with its multiple icons that are jewels in the crown of Dubai, reflecting awe and splendor, what does this architecture do for the people and thus in leaving an imprint on the peoples mind collectively. The study analyzes the dimensions that make certain kind of architecture stand out. Some of these dimensions are physical and others are difficult to measure, thus it addresses the tangible and intangible factors that result in the icon and the associated symbolism with it. The relevance and meaning of these symbols will have to stand the test of time to leave an ever-lasting impression on generations to come. The literature review was the first part of the study and the theoretical studies were divided into three pivot areas in this thesis: evolution of architecture as signs and symbols, international iconic architecture and its impact, architecture as identity through symbolism. The study also focusses on Dubai as an emerging iconic city concentrating on the needs of people and impact of these icons on people specifically, further highlighting the issues of legibility, context and identity in Dubai. The empirical study examines this argument about iconic architecture through questionnaires and interviews. A comparison is drawn between different segments of people in the community, one set of samples being those who are closely associated with these icons through the process of decision making or building, the others who have very minimal knowledge and association with these icons. The findings thus indicate both the well-established criteria for awarding an iconic status and also the intangible often ignored aspects in iconic image building. Thus, the study suggests a paradigm that could provide more human based elements in the iconic architecture and the selected symbols in representing these icons. Certain recommendations supporting the perception of people towards icons, their needs and local considerations are further made to make cities more liveable and joyful for the people they are intended for.
Supervisor: Mushatat, Sabah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Iconic Architecture ; Symbolism ; Dubai Architecture ; Architectural Identity ; UAE