Masdar City

Masdar City: design of the public realm Masdar City is an emerging clean-technology cluster located in what aims to be one of the world’s most sustainable cities powered by renewable energy. The design of the public realm underpins this vision and strengthens and enriches the key sustainability principles of the Masdar City master plan. The design represents a transformation in thinking, where traditionally productive landscapes become high amenity areas for the whole population. The design also transforms development constraints into positives: arid vegetation landscapes create habitat for endangered species and feed air movement to public areas; a revealed groundwater system cools the air and mitigates the effects of the microclimate; and stormwater pools around the carefully designed public realm express seasonality and react to the desert climate. Masdar City’s landscape design is firmly anchored in the understood traditions of place; it rethinks and reinterprets what already exists. It is focused on the key systems of water, soil, vegetation and experiences and merges these systems to create a smart, productive, memorable and sustainable city in which every element of the landscape design feeds through to benefit another. The design also responds to the influences of future climate change in the region, producing a landscape that is resilient to the effects of temperature rise, decreases in soil moisture and increases in desertification. Landscapes will help the Masdar City community to adapt to climate change and re-establish soil biologies, create productive landscapes and nurture local knowledge systems. The landscape public realm has a strong role to play in the achievement of the its sustainability objectives. Its innovative design can minimise carbon use, maximise the removal of greenhouse gas emissions and reuse the waste produced within the city itself. It is vital to help cool and alleviate the impacts of the city’s climate and will improve liveability and amenity throughout the city. The Masdar City public realm is designed for the people: using multipurpose landscapes to show diversity, to respond to constraints, to achieve sustainability, to produce food, to provide for local habitat and to conserve traditional values. Water Twenty-three hectares of evaporative surfaces will manage interconnected systems of groundwater and surface water. Revealed groundwater will provide stormwater detention and create breezes to cool the air for sports and amenity areas. Residents and workers can occupy areas around the hyper saline groundwater. Opportunities may be created for swimming, habitat protection on raised areas or algae production. The landscape solution controls flooding, removes the need for pipework, reduces infrastructure costs and converts a constraint to a high amenity benefit. The infrequency of expected surface stormwater cannot be relied on for irrigation. Instead, stormwater will be captured then expressed in pools of water spaced around the public realm in sunken zones where air is several degrees cooler. Films of water rather than deep pools will combine with shaded canopies, creating a sense of air movement, water and coolness. Even when dry, these landscapes shall remain areas of high amenity, expressing how the built form responds to the cycle of the desert. Soil Waste produced in Masdar City will progressively enrich layers of soil to feed pods of productive landscapes. The process will be laid out as Masdar City develops - as its population builds, as waste is created and as its need for locally produced food increases. Ducted vacuum based systems around the city will feed waste to a central processing unit. The waste can help establish life-rich layers of soil that, through permacultural techniques, dramatically increase water holding capacity to feed the city. This soil profile is paramount to the city’s low waste targets. Vegetation Landscapes will be as productive as they will be beautiful. Masdar City’s food forest can create layers of food production, with pomegranates, citrus, avocado or mangoes growing in the shadow of higher date palms. These crops will protect annual crops such as tomatoes or corn from hot dry winds. Around 73 hectares of productive landscapes will frame the city, providing an aesthetic edge that will thrive in the composted and moisture rich soils, and receive further nourishment from sub-surface irrigation systems fed by waste water from within the city. The patterns of crops will provide an ever-changing shaded area of amenity and educational walks for visitors and residents. The productive landscape will enhance wind flow, reduce heat and water loss from evapotranspiration and sequester carbon within its soils and vegetation. Carbon reduction targets will benefit from reduced fertiliser use and transport normally associated with food importation. Alongside the pods of productive landscapes, arid habitat zones will provide habitat for endemic reptiles, birds and mammals - such as the endangered desert hare - and provide a point of contrast to the lush appearance of the productive pods. While providing a landscape of protection and corridors of movement for native flora and fauna, these areas can also enable and enhance wind velocity and air movement through to areas of occupation. Experiences Throughout Masdar City, the public realm will respond to the built form, sun orientation and wind patterns to create public places that mitigate the effects of Abu Dhabi’s extreme temperatures. Cooler air from air conditioning exhausts will work into sunken, shaded areas bounded by water elements for cooling and supported by structures and plantings placed to provide shade and positively influence wind flow for cooling. Open spaces will be positioned to minimise sunlight exposure and maximise shade. The primary open space alongside the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology - the centrepiece of the city’s focus on research and innovation - will become a gathering space for concerts, graduations and recreation. One of the few grassed spaces in the city, it will absorb people and their activities year-round by taking advantage of the traditional east-west orientations that cool and ventilate the city. Hard scaped around the edges, the green fingers will be shaded by tree plantings and cooled by water features and wind flow to central spaces.

City Planning done by Foster and Partners.


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