The emirate of Dubai has long been synonymous with aggressive economic development, promoting the design and construction of numerous extravagant architectural landmarks. Branded as “the city of superlatives,” Dubai has been the topic of numerous books and articles documenting its humble origins and its journey from rags to riches.1 In Showpiece City, Todd Reisz provides a comprehensive and detailed account of Dubai’s urbanization from the 1950s to the present. He utilizes a multifaceted storytelling approach to capture the roles of architecture, politics, economics, and technology in shaping Dubai’s current reality, beginning with its origins as an impoverished British protectorate, one of the Trucial States of the Arabian Peninsula.

Although numerous scholars have attempted to elucidate the architectural history of key cities of the Persian Gulf, much of this work has been overly broad or unduly narrow in its subjects of inquiry. For example, Peter Jackson and Anne Coles’s...

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