In terms of architecture, being labeled an ‘icon’ is generally considered a positive thing.
This may no longer be the case according to a recent report titled ‘’Iconic’ architecture on the decline in the UAE.’ The report explores the detrimental effects the constant use of the term ‘icon’ in regard to a development can have in taking away the word’s associated exclusivity.
While movie stars, reality television stars and all the stars in between can fall victim to overexposure, does this idea translate elsewhere? Can buildings become overexposed?
According to the report, written by Devina Divecha, it can and sometimes does, with EAU developments standing as prime examples of this theory.
“The word ‘iconic’ is not being used anymore because it doesn’t mean anything here (in Dubai),” senior principal at Thornton Tomasetti UAE Kyle Krall is quoted as saying. “It’s just used to mean the craziest building that is recognised.”
The report argues that due to the fact that the word ‘iconic’ has been thrown around in regard to nearly all of the major developments showcased in Dubai, an ‘icon greenwash’ of sorts has occurred, where the value of icon status has become completely depleted.
It seems unrealistic that people are getting tired of great or impressive buildings. More likely, we have simply upped the ante both on the page and off.
Five years ago, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was marked as an icon, a distinction it surely still holds. Now, however, bigger more daring skyscrapers are under construction, putting that icon status to the test. This is a competitive business, and in order for an investment to reach its maximum capacity and global acclaim, standing out from the rest is a necessity.
Do we stop praising top buildings just because another, perhaps more architecturally advanced building is coming under development a short while later?
In answering these questions, one must go back to what truly allows a building to stand as an icon in its position in the city. An icon is not simply built and labeled. New developments can be projected or expected to become an icon, but it is not until these buildings sit in their cities, engage with society and find their own personal acclaim that icon status can truly be given, whether for a hot minute or a lifetime.