Theory
LMK 02 - 11 - 2010

Reality hit hard when the UAE was announced to be the least sustainable country in the world according to the urban planner who presented today. Additionally, the environmental 'blacksheep' called Dubai whose demand is not nearly as high as their supply helped to inspire a change in focus for the growth of neighboring Abu Dhabi. Aaron, whose last name escapes both my notes and my brain, explained that Masdar initiative is in response to this information mixed with the fact that the UAE is in desperated need of a prominent industry that is more long-lasting than oil. A financial finger of the Abu Dhabi government has partnered with MIT's sustainable technologies research center to create the Masdar group. A plan has developed for Masdar City surrounding the idea of building from scratch a community that is completely sustainable and carbon-neutral. Within this community the central focus will be the research, development, and implementation of sustainable technologies. To the right is an image from Dane Carlson of the skin of the Masdar Institute Research Center. A few design features include the photovoltaic panels seen on the top of the building, the open lattice wall allowing for indirect lighting, and the position of the windows so that the sun never shines directly into the openings. However, as stated above the approach to sustainability has begun from the ground up. The second image is a section of a normal city street. The buildings are close together to create shaded streets in a similar fashion to old Arabic towns like Granada and Cordoba. The streets are oriented to allow for the most ventilation from natural winds. Cars will not be permitted within the boundaries of Masdar City, but a system of public transportation exists on the level below the street. Infrastructure is on the next level keeping all of the lines accessible but hidden. But what does all of this mean? Will all of this even work on the large scale? And how realistic is expecting an entire city of humans to comply with and enjoy this strictly regulated built environment? How much is all of this costing in the long run? Will the community truly be of mixed incomes? Will older communities actually be able to adapt this lifestyle to their own if Masdar City proves to be successful? How long until the first stages are actually completed? In a country already confused by the complexities of a globally active culture, will enough be able to understand this life style as to bring with them and thus sustain the native traditions of this area? And so on... The answers and results to these questions will spell out the truth about how sustainable Masdar City proves to be. The only option the world has is to wait. And then wait a bit more... My only hope is that the research center remembers to include those who are the most abusive of the environment--those without the money to care for and research about their own environmental impacts. If cheap solutions are not made available to the poor, large populations than I feel that all of this work could be for naught. Because the rich people are not the ones generally destroying the world. Instead, those trying to work to achieve the same status as the rich are the ones truly "destroying" the world. However, this technology cannot be developed cheaply without a research center that is capable of first finding the actual solutions. So here's to the hopeful success of a not so sustainable approach to effective, sustainable design...

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