April 1, 2011
Metropolis Hits and Misses
It seems like a no-brainer today, but in 2003 it was startling news: The leading cause of climate change was not smokestacks or SUVs but … architecture? So claimed the New Mexico architect and author Ed Mazria, who came to this conclusion after a year researching the correlation between global warming and the building sector. When he cold-called Metropolis to share his findings, even our editors were a little skeptical. But the numbers were undeniable. By reorganizing existing data to combine the energy figures for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings with the embodied energy of materials like carpet and hardware, Mazria exposed architects as stealth polluters. “This is the most important moment in the history of architecture,” he told us. If he was exaggerating, it wasn’t by much. Our cover story launched what turned out to be a highly effective campaign to reduce fossil-fuel emissions drastically in
the construction industry.
Dubai was already an architectural fantasyland and a media sensation by late 2007, so Stephen Zacks decided to take a look “beyond the … thousand skyscrapers, malls, resorts, islands, and theme parks.” What he found gave him reason for optimism. The emirate had an unrestricted social and cultural life; it had opened up the economy to foreigners; and it was making massive investments in energy-efficient buildings and ecologically sensitive developments. Dubai, Zacks predicted, “will be the new economic and cultural capital of the world,” much like Paris in the 19th century and New York in the 20th. Within a few months of our story, however, the global economic crisis had clobbered the desert metropolis’s property market and left it with approximately $100 billion in foreign debt. Today, Dubai is seen more as an emblem of debt-fueled extravagance than a “new hope for the Middle East.”