In the period from 2009 until 2011 we have been commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council to produce three successive master plans for the restructuring and expansion of desert towns. Together with Juurlink and Geluk landscape architects, we founded CULD Complex Urban Landscape Design for these kind of large scale planning commissions. Many advisers were involved. We worked with different departments of ARUP, EDAW/EACOM, KEO, Urbis, Dome, Jones Lang Lasalle.
Being Emirati has some perks: tax-free income, free high-quality health care, subsidized fuel, generous government-funded retirement plans and access to land to build homes with interest-free loans. Each Emirati family gets a plot of 1.000 m2. The town layouts are characterized by these grids of 30×30 plots. The street profiles are enormous and everybody builds a wall around his property. The streets are no places to linger, every move is made by car.
The Abu Dhabi UPC launched a vision for the period until 2030, with a focus on mobility, environment, identity and community. The population is expected to grow from 3 to 5 million and with the current land use and allocation policy, the sprawl and traffic congestion would get out of hand. The plan 2030 offers a framework for future developments in the City and beyond. We produced master plans for an expansion district of Abu Dhabi City, a restructuring master plan for a coastal town and a restructuring master plan for a desert town.
In the current suburban districts the connection between home, public space and nature got lost and was replaced by walls and car roads with speed bumps. Our main contribution to the restructuring master plans was to bring back the spatial ingredients for hierarchy in the public space and to relate a new typology for housing to the natural environment or urban context it is in.
The key to create a hierarchical public space is the assignment of specific recognizable features to streets, from main access road to sikka (alley). With such a setup the type of street tells you where you are in a neighborhood. Every neighborhood has a mosque within walking distance. The street network has been tuned to that.
Each neighborhood has a shaded walkway towards the mosque and, across from that, a palm tree lined main street. Always either one of them crosses the normal neighborhood streets. In addition an informal pedestrian network is formed by the sikka’s. The existing street profiles offer ample possibility for the transformation.
Next we offered a new typology for housing, creating a street facade instead of a closed garden wall and wrapping the house around a private courtyard. Based on this typology we proposed various house types and sizes. Together with the street types they form the main ingredients for the master plans.