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Posts tagged Bill Baker

Tyranny means never having to say you’re sorry

Here’s a brief clipping from Wired‘s recent profile on Bill Baker, a structural engineer who specializes in gigantic skyscrapers. He’s currently working on a project for the Emir of Dubai which, when completed, will be the tallest building in the world:

In spring 2003, a pair of developers invited Baker and two of SOM’s managing partners to dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Manhattan skyline. The developers worked for a company in Dubai called Emaar, and they wanted to construct the tallest building in the world. Dubai was eager to make its mark, and because its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum (known affectionately by locals as Sheikh Mo), supported the project, there would be no litigious neighbors or pesky air traffic controllers to muck things up. There are some places in the world that are like, Let’s do it, get it done, Baker says. Dubai is one of those places. Emaar gave SOM two weeks to submit a proposal for a residential building, to be known as the Burj Dubai. The Dubai Tower.

— Andrew Blum, The Ultrabuilder, in Wired 15.12 (December 2007), p. 224.

In other words, this monumental building project got rammed through, while the people who have to live in its shadow and the airline operators that have to fly around it are legally prevented from doing anything to effectively voice their objections, let alone to get some kind of compensation for the inconveniences, costs and disruptions that such gigantic projects inevitably impose on their private property or their long-established business in common resources and transit lanes. That’s because Bill Baker’s gigantic skyscraper is the pet project of Sheikh Mo, the enormously wealthy, relentlessly self-aggrandizing, and completely unaccountable petty tyrant of Dubai, who can personally manipulate any legal proceeding, override any attempt by ordinary people to get some kind of redress, and shove around any business in the country, if any of them threaten to get in the way of yet another multimillion dollar monument to himself.

It takes a certain kind of mindset to crow about the will and the ability to trample on everybody else’s homes, lives, and livelihoods in order to get a big project rammed through as if it were the positive, can-do sort of attitude that the political-development complex ought to adopt always and everywhere. That mindset is no less tawdry and mean for being so common amongst the most powerful, influential and well-connected people on earth.

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