The Architecture of Unhappiness

This building is an affront to all that is good in humanity. It is one of the most assertive symbols of greed and smirking arrogance I have seen. This offensive, overscaled pile of camel paikhana has been designed by Dar al Handasah and built by BinLaden.

The Abraj Al Bait Towers is a building under construction (est completion 2009) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It will be the largest (not tallest) building in the world by mass, the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, and one of the tallest buildings in the world at 485m.

Someone said on these pages that if the Saudi’s spent less money on palaces and armaments and more on correcting its human rights abuses, it wouldn’t be in such a dismal mess.

For those who flout the law, punishment is usually severe. Yet its application is inconsistent and most trials are held behind closed doors, without counsel for defendants. Amnesty International, which remains barred from the kingdom, has recorded over 1,400 executions since 1980. Some 40 people a year are still publicly beheaded for crimes including drug offences, robbery and rape. Sodomy and sorcery have also, in recent years, earned the ultimate penalty. Saudis—and more often expatriates—are frequently reported to have been flogged for such crimes as selling illicit alcohol, sometimes with as many as 1,000 lashes being inflicted, with 50 or so strokes in a session being administered at intervals of two or three weeks

126 Responses to “The Architecture of Unhappiness”

  1. shafiur Says:

    Tell me Sid how do you go from a Charles Windsor type rant about a building in Saudi Arabia to a rant about the usual Saudi penchant for flogging and chopping things off? Give it a rest mate.

    Ziauddin Sardar has some horror stories…er I mean..anecdotes to relate about Saudi vandalism when it comes to architecture, construction and planning for the city in his book Desperately Seeking Paradise.

  2. Sid H Arthur Says:

    Ideally the building should be turned into a top research centre that designs and builds prosthetic limbs like these for all the “amputations” performed by the Kingdom in the name of Shariah.

  3. kobial Says:

    Hi Sid

    Really nice to see a post on architecture and how you’ve correlated it to the socio-political state of the Saudis. Good one.

  4. shafiur Says:

    Wait, wait…shariah sanctions prosthetics post-dismemberment? How enlightened can you get. Maybe there’s something positive to be said about it after all? ;-)

  5. Sid H Arthur Says:

    You know the old legend of Shah Jahan cutting off the thumbs of the master artisans who worked on the Taj Mahal so that a building as beautiful could never be duplicated? Well, I propose the same thing for the architects of the Abraj al Bait, except for exactly the opposite reason.

    And no prosthetic thumbs for them either. ;-)

  6. sonia Says:

    why should Sid give it a rest?

    watched a very interesting movie over the weekend - Syriana. yes all that spending on defence - but who would prop up the US economy otherwise :-)

  7. Sid H Arthur Says:

    “give it a rest”.

    That’s the nicest thing anyone can say to a blogger.

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