September 28, 2010

A city called Masdar

September 28, 2010

Masdar is the name of the newly opened sustainable community just outside of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.  Designed by Norman Foster + Partners the first neighborhood of 3 1/2 acres began welcoming its new residents just last week.  The New York Times released a two page article about Masdar over the weekend, complete with a photograph slide show
Some of the highlights of the article for me:
  • Combining the latest sustainable technologies and researching old Arab building techniques 
  • Implementing narrow streets angled to maximize shade = Accelerated airflow through the streets and the feeling of 70 degrees cooler
  • 90 percent of the power to be used is expected to be solar and incinerating waste will generate the remaining power needed
  • Strategic placement of elevators (nearly out of sight) to encourage the use of stairs and walking
  • Use of electric cars that are beneath the city
  • Masdar will continue to be studied almost as an on going experiment, with some tweaking here and there

The article ends questioning this new city as it may successfully address some issues of sustainability, but misses the mark on integrated living.

"What Masdar really represents, in fact, is the crystallization of another global phenomenon: the growing division of the world into refined, high-end enclaves and vast formless ghettos where issues like sustainability have little immediate relevance.
That’s obviously not how Mr. Foster sees it. He said the city was intended to house a cross-section of society, from students to service workers. “It is not about social exclusion,” he added.
And yet Masdar seems like the fulfillment of that idea. Ever since the notion that thoughtful planning could improve the lot of humankind died out, sometime in the 1970s, both the megarich and the educated middle classes have increasingly found solace by walling themselves off inside a variety of mini-utopias."  Nicolai Ouroussoff

Photographs courtesy of THE NEW YORK TIMES.  NYT Sources: Duncan Chard; Renderings and photographs by Masdar, Foster & Partners (city plan and Masdar Institute), LAVA (Masdar Plaza and sunshades), Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture (Masdar Headquarters building), Zagato and 2getthere (automated car design)

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