Panama, the Dubai of the Americas…..WHY?!

Many people have called Panama City, “The Dubai of Latin America”.  Many developers and real estate agents are advertising it this way.  The media is hyping it.

My question is…. WHY?????

Panama Skyline Futuredubai

Why does Panama City want to become a Dubai?  Who wants Panama to be a Dubai?  Is being the Dubai of the America something good? Wouldn’t Panama rather be the Barcelona of the Americas, or the London of the Americas?

It is easy to look at the countless construction sites in Panama and Dubai and draw similarities.  The “architecture” is an equally horrific mishmash of tinted glass and concrete.  There is no attempt to create context, or a neighborhood.  The only desire is to be more dramatic or “original” to grab the attention of prospective clients.  Nothing is more important than the pre-construction rendering.  It doesn’t matter what the completed building looks like, or what it does to its neighbors…. if it looks good, it will sell!

Read more on next page….

Take the Trump Ocean Club for example. WOW!  “What a beautiful structure!  Right on tropical waters…..not a neighbor in sight!  I can’t wait to go there and relax in that tropical sun feeling the fresh ocean breeze and to just get away from this crazy city life! “

Trump Ocean Club




I can’t imagine how many people bought a unit or invested in the Trump Ocean Club in Panama without seeing the context, which is this……

Actual location of Trump Ocean Club

Actual location of Trump Ocean Club

You can see that the owners didn’t care about designing anything but the “image”.  They didn’t care about the neighborhood, the neighbors, the sustainability of the city.  They just cared about the image and what would sell to buyers.  Advertising rules architecture in Panama.

Why can’t Panama be the Barcelona of the Americas?  Smart investment in Barcelona renovated a dead economy and catapulted it into a world class city.  Why must Panama try to imitate Dubai by sacrificing itself to become a playground for the rich?  A forest of self contained luxury towers whose residents travel from private tower to private tower in air-conditioned sedans, never stepping foot in a public space.   In my opinion, being the Dubai of the Americas is nothing to brag about.  Feel free to leave your ideas below 🙂

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  1. DCV wrote:

    Hola, felicidades por el blog. Me parece genial que se “discuta la ciudad” en todas partes.

    Soy de Costa Rica, y en marzo pasado tuve la oportunidad de visitar por primera vez Ciudad de Panamá. No me tomes a mal, pero fue un tanto desilusionante. La ciudad se vende super bien afuera. Esperaba encontrarme una ciudad dinámica, con vistas impactantes y bastante viva a nivel de calle.

    Por otra parte me encontré una ciudad con un tráfico vehicular insoportable. Donde ser peatón da miedo. Con un sistema de transporte público que daba aún más miedo, y donde al parecer no existen espacios de esparcimiento y encuentro adecuados.

    El no-lugar y el junkspace hacen de las suyas, al igual que el mal gusto con aires agringados. Sin embargo creo que existe todo para hacer una gran ciudad. Hay gente encantadora, la condición costera es muy aprovechable. Tienen atracciones únicas y maravillosas. Vi algo de patrimonio que resulta atractivo y sobre todo tienen la ventaja de que uds son importantes para el mundo, y pueden explotar ese factor. Espero volver a Panamá, y espero que no solo allí sino también en mi país cambie la actitud hacia la ciudad.

  2. Darién wrote:

    Especially enjoyable is the trump context photo, with the dreariest of weathers. god i love punta pacífica

  3. MariaFernanda wrote:

    La ciudad de Panama!..
    por mi lado vivi en La ciudad de Panama por muchos anios, es una ciudad hermosa a pesar del trafico. Siento que es un lugar donde vale la pena vivir.. un lugar que tiene casi todo.
    Panama, con sus edificios.. pienso que no trata de imitar a nadie simplemente es un pais con ganas de crecer… no hay problemas con quien quiera una vida mas callada lejos de la ciudad, como dije para todo hay… si no te gusta estar en la ciudad.. pues hay muchos lugares en Panama donde puedes vivir relajadamente, en un muy comodo ambiente.

  4. giovanni corella morrison wrote:

    well, I live in panama, and i must say that i just love how panama city is growing, i love skyscrapers, my great passion, and I must tell u that i’d prefer my city to be called the dubai of the americas rather than the barcelona or london of the americas, i know we lack a lot to come up at dubai’s level, but, dubai’s just a lot better to me, and to a lot of ppl, than barcelona or london, even though london is a lot bigger, ( the size is not that much, take a hint from mexico city…and panama, just look at them both and tell me which looks more impressive even tough mexico city is way bigger than panama) and all the amenities of barcelona just don’t matter, i just prefer dubai…and we love the way our country is going, and don’t mind what others think, our problems right now r being solved at a very quick and frantic way…and our development is giving us the fame and cathegory we lacked, so what else could we ask 4..?? we r most likely becoming a first world country in a few years if we go on this way

  5. […] in his blog PanamArq, wrote about the comparisons between Panama and Dubai and he asked “Why does Panama City want to become a Dubai?” Wouldn't Panama rather be the Barcelona of the Americas or the London of the […]

  6. […] in his blog PanamArq, wrote about the comparisons between Panama and Dubai and he asked “Why does Panama City want to become a Dubai?” Wouldn’t Panama rather be the Barcelona of the Americas or the London of the […]

  7. JavierX wrote:

    Punta Pacifica is a disaster- but like most disasters you can’t help but stare! God it is a glorious mistake!
    Panama still has neighborhoods where normal people will continue (as they always have) to live: El Cangrejo- near the University with its quasi intellectual feel and low key restaurants. Bella Vista with its converted mansions housing the city’s finest dining, dancing and club life, San Francisco which feels a bit like a high rise West LA and Casco Viejo a now thriving artsy, cultural focal point in the colonial area of San Felipe.
    The Manhattanization or Sao Paolofication of Panama is definitely a good thing for the economy and the fastest way to catapult Panama to the future. while Dubai is OVER planned, Panama is recklessly unplanned- in many ways similar to how lower Manhattan developed prior to the 1811 Commissioners Plan (grid). Eventually there will be enough expressways to handle the traffic and better public transit (buses and a metro) but for the time being it often reminds me of what Rome must have been like in the post war era- big american cars clogging every road, sidewalk cafes and restaurants full of people and seedy bars and clubs everywhere- La Dolce Vita! No wonder they even named a street Via Veneto right smack in the old downtown off Via Espana!

    • admin wrote:

      Great Analysis Javier! You point out some of the really great things of Panama City. I hope that the city planners will build off of these successful neighborhoods rather than seeing them as an obstacle to modernization which my city of Boston suffered from in the 1960’s and 70’s with Urban Redevelopment.

    • Lou wrote:

      Thank you!! Just returned from Panama City, and couldn’t put into words how I felt. Recklessly unplanned describes the current situation exactly!!